By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) — The short-handed Toronto Blue Jays have a chance to reduce their AL East deficit to a more manageable size Thursday night, and J.A. Happ will try to aid his club with another stellar outing.
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista will also seek to continue his recent success against the Baltimore Orioles in the series finale in Toronto.
Toronto (61-54) trailed Baltimore by 1 1/2 games last Thursday after winning its sixth in a row but quickly fell five games back after an 0-4 start to August. Bautista keyed the end of that skid with a homer, three hits and three RBIs in Wednesday’s 5-1 win.
He is batting .405 with two homers and 10 RBIs in a 10-game hitting streak against the Orioles (64-49), who had their three-game win streak snapped. Bautista extended that streak despite the Blue Jays missing Brett Lawrie due to a sore back and Edwin Encarnacion (quad) and Adam Lind (foot) still on the disabled list.
Lind is expected to begin a rehab assignment Thursday in Florida while Lawrie’s status is unknown. The infielder had returned from a stint on the disabled list for a broken right finger Tuesday.
“I would hope not,” manager John Gibbons told the MLB’s official website when asked if Lawrie could need another stint on the DL. “It’s too early to tell that. I wouldn’t think so, but we’ve been wrong many times before. A few days turns into months.”
Happ (8-5, 4.25 ERA) has a 1.47 ERA in his three starts since the All-Star break but has received just one win. The left-hander allowed one run in seven innings and struck out six on Friday in Houston, but the Blue Jays fell 3-1.
“I feel strong, trying to get in some kind of groove out there and got some good results tonight, so I’ll always take that,” Happ told MLB’s official website.
Happ is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his last three home starts and 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in last two overall versus Baltimore. He yielded one run in six innings and struck out six in a 5-2 road win over the Orioles on June 15.
In this matchup, Happ will pitch opposite Miguel Gonzalez (5-6, 3.93), who didn’t get this month off to a strong start after shining in July. The right-hander gave up four runs – three on a homer by Robinson Cano – in five innings of a 6-3 loss to Seattle on Saturday.
Gonzalez was 1-0 with a 1.82 ERA in four starts in July and is 1-0 with a 1.66 ERA in his last three on the road.
“Take the positive and leave the negative then come back next time and try to do my best,” he said.
Gonzalez is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his last seven starts against Toronto and did not receive a decision in his only matchup this season, a 9-3 loss April 22. He gave up three runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings while striking out seven.
Bautista went 1 for 2 versus Gonzalez in that game after registering two hits in his prior nine at-bats against the right-hander.
Adam Jones is 6 for 13 against Happ in his career but 3 for 24 so far this month.
Updated August 7, 2014
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