Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario
The Baltimore Orioles lead the American League East but are experiencing a mini-funk as they enter a pivotal three-game divisional showdown with the host Toronto Blue Jays that begins on Friday. The Orioles have lost three consecutive games, including a 6-2 setback against Minnesota on Thursday, and have seen their lead over the Blue Jays dwindle to 1 1/2 games.
Baltimore has been outscored 15-6 during its slide and has belted just two home runs — both by Adam Jones. The Orioles (150) and Blue Jays (144) are the top two home run-hitting teams in the majors and feature five players with more than 20 blasts — major league-leader Mark Trumbo (30), Chris Davis (22) and Manny Machado (21) for Baltimore and Edwin Encarnacion (27) and Josh Donaldson (25) for Toronto. Trumbo enters the series in a 1-for-18 slump and without a homer over his last five games. Toronto has won six of its last nine games but has allowed 22 runs in its last two defeats.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Orioles RH Kevin Gausman (2-7, 3.77 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Marco Estrada (5-4, 2.94)
Gausman is coming off a strong outing in which he defeated Cleveland by scattering four hits over seven scoreless innings. He is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 10 career appearances (five starts) against Toronto and settled for a no-decision on June 10, when he gave up three runs – two earned – and eight hits in 6 1/3 frames. Gausman has thoroughly befuddled Encarnacion, who is hitless in 12 at-bats against the 25-year-old.
Estrada lost to Seattle in his last outing as he returned from a back injury, giving up two runs and seven hits in six innings. The 33-year-old originally was slated to start Wednesday against San Diego, but the Blue Jays pushed him back so he could face the Orioles. Estrada is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in eight career appearances (six starts) versus Baltimore but did not factor in the decision on June 10 after yielding three runs and four hits in six innings while matched up against Gausman.
1. Blue Jays RF/DH Jose Bautista is 1-for-11 in three games since returning from a toe injury.
2. Davis is 3-for-7 over his last two games after going hitless in 24 at-bats over his previous seven contests.
3. Encarnacion, who leads the majors with 87 RBIs, is 4-for-21 with a homer and nine strikeouts over his last six games.
PREDICTION: Blue Jays 5, Orioles 4