By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) — The Baltimore Orioles are showing no signs of slowing down as they continue to increase their lead in the AL East.
The visiting Orioles go for a fourth consecutive winWednesday night against the second-place Toronto Blue Jays, who are hoping to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the year.
Caleb Joseph homered in his third consecutive game and Chris Davis hit his 18th as Baltimore took Tuesday’s series opener 9-3. The Orioles (64-48) have won 22 of 31 to climb five games ahead of Toronto (60-54) in the division.
“We’re going to do everything we can to come out and create some space,” Joseph said. “We’ve got guys behind us that are coming after us hard. These are the type of games where you can gain ground.”
The Blue Jays have been outscored 26-7 during a four-game skid, going 4 for 26 with runners in scoring position. They went 2 for 11 on Tuesday in dropping to 2-5 in their last seven against the Orioles.
Toronto, which lost five in a row July 3-7, is still clinging to the AL’s second wild-card spot.
Wei-Yin Chen (12-3, 3.76 ERA) takes the ball for Baltimore looking to set a career high for wins. The left-hander is 9-1 in his last 15 outings and has a 2.53 ERA during a five-start winning streak.
Chen allowed one run and struck out a season-high eight over 7 1-3 innings to beat Seattle 2-1 on Friday.
“If you get seven innings out of your starter, you’re going to win your share of games,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Regardless of the analysis of the game, it starts and most of it is with Wei-Yin. He’s really solid for us here lately in a time of need, obviously standings-wise.”
Chen has surprisingly only faced the Blue Jays once in his three seasons, yielding five runs over five innings in a 9-5 home loss Sept. 24, 2012.
Toronto counters with Drew Hutchison (7-9, 4.62), who is 1-3 with an 8.10 ERA over his last five outings. After going a season-low 2 2-3 innings in a 14-1 loss to Boston two starts earlier, the right-hander was tagged for four runs over three innings in Thursday’s 6-5 win at Houston.
While some thought Hutchison could be skipped with Monday’s day off, he’ll get another chance to prove himself against the Orioles. He’s 2-0 in five matchups while posting a 1.16 ERA, his lowest against any team he’s faced more than once.
“They all need a day off,” Gibbons told MLB’s official website. “Hutch has been good against Baltimore, too. Let’s face it, we have our five guys, we have to roll with it.”
Davis and Nelson Cruz are a combined 4 for 23 against Hutchinson while Adam Jones is 3 for 15.
Blue Jays infielder Brett Lawrie came off the disabled list Tuesday after missing six weeks with a broken finger but was forced to exit after three innings with tightness in his lower back. The injury isn’t considered serious but could keep him out of this game.
Jose Reyes is a career .340 hitter against the Orioles after going 3 for 4 in the opener. He’s batting .379 with 15 runs during a 16-game stretch against division opponents.
This marks the latest point in the season that Baltimore and Toronto have met as the top two clubs in the AL East since Aug. 10, 1992.
Updated August 6, 2014
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