BALTIMORE ORIOLES (10-10)
at TORONTO BLUE JAYS (11-10)
First pitch: Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: Toronto -120, Baltimore +110, Total: 9
The Orioles and Blue Jays meet for Thursday's rubber match of a three-game series that has been a high-scoring battle thus far.
These teams have been at the bottom of the AL East for most of the past couple of decades and are hoping that this is the season either one could rise to the top. They split the first two games in this series with the teams combining to score 30 runs, including a 10-8 victory by the Orioles on Wednesday night. In the game, the clubs had seven combined home runs, including two from OF Nelson Cruz, who is now 4-for-9 with three home runs, eight RBI and three runs over the first two games. On their current seven-game road trip against AL East opponents, Baltimore is 3-3 as it split a four-game series against the Red Sox before heading to Toronto. The Blue Jays sit just one game behind the Yankees for the top spot in the division after winning three of their past five games, while OF Melky Cabrera (.351 BA, 3rd in AL) has gone 12-for-24 with four extra-base hits and three RBI in that time. Heading to the mound in this one for the visiting Orioles will be RHP Bud Norris (0-2, 4.42 ERA) as he seeks his first win of the season. Opposing Norris for the Blue Jays will be RHP Drew Hutchison (1-1, 3.60 ERA) as he attempts to help Toronto win its second consecutive series. In the game, both teams will look to push their road and home records over the .500 mark as Baltimore is 6-6 on the road and the Blue Jays are 4-4 in front of their fans this year. Since the start of the 2012 campaign, Baltimore holds a 23-19 record in this matchup while Toronto holds a 12-9 edge when playing at home.
Bud Norris was acquired last season to provide depth to the Orioles rotation and he has gone 4-5 over his first 14 games (12 starts) with the club. The right-hander was hit hard by the Red Sox in his last outing on Saturday, going 6.1 innings and allowing Boston to get four runs on five hits and two walks, but he did strike out seven. Norris does seem to feel comfortable against the Blue Jays though, and while he doesnít have a win in his first two starts against them, his team is 2-0 in those outings while he has a 2.45 ERA despite a woeful 1.55 WHIP. But when he faced Toronto two weeks ago on April 12, Norris tossed seven shutout innings, allowing eight baserunners (5 H, 3 BB) with four strikeouts. OF Melky Cabrera has been hot of late and is 3-for-7 (1 double, 3 RBI) against Norris in his career, while SS Jose Reyes has also done well, going 6-for-16 with a double. The player with the most experience against Norris is OF Colby Rasmus, but he has gone just 4-for-25 (.160) against the right-hander with six strikeouts, two doubles and a home run. So far on the year, the Oriolesí bullpen is 3-2 with a mediocre 3.80 ERA and 1.45 WHIP while converting 7-of-9 save opportunities. Closer Tommy Hunter (3.86 ERA, 6 saves) has already given up 10 hits in his first seven innings on the mound, but has a solid 6:1 K/BB ratio and has blown just one save so far.
Drew Hutchison has started just 15 games in his brief MLB career, going 6-4 with a 4.35 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. In his lone start at Rogers Centre this year on April 6, the 23-year-old was roughed up for six runs on six hits and three walks in just 3.1 innings, but he has also thrown two scoreless outings in 2014, including going six innings and allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out five against the Orioles in the same pitching matchup earlier in the year on April 12. Overall in his three career starts against Baltimore, the right-handed Hutchison is 1-0 (1-2 team record) with a mere 1.00 ERA (1.06 WHIP) and has pitched 13 consecutive shutout innings over his past two starts facing them. He also has 16 strikeouts compared to just six walks in 18 frames against Baltimore and has yet to allow a home run. Overall, players on the current O's roster have combined to go just 10-for-53 (.189) with 12 Kís and only one extra-base hit against him, with their stars 1B Chris Davis (1-for-5, 2 Kís), OF Adam Jones (2-for-9, 2 Kís), OF Nelson Cruz (1-for-6) and C Matt Wieters (0-for-5) all struggling. The only player with more than two hits in the matchup is OF Nick Markakis, who is 4-for-9 with a double. The Blue Jaysí bullpen allowed four runs (2 HR) in five innings of work on Wednesday night and is now 3-4 with a 3.96 ERA and 1.43 WHIP while going 6-for-8 in save chances. Sergio Santos (6.14 ERA, 5 saves) is still manning the ninth inning with Casey Janssen on the DL with a shoulder injury. Santos has blown just one save, but has allowed four runs while giving up five walks in his past four games (3 IP).