The red-hot Baltimore Orioles have improved their standing in the postseason picture with wins in a season-high seven straight contests. The Orioles look to continue their recent surge as well as their dominance of the visiting Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday when the American League East rivals play the opener of a four-game series at Camden Yards.
“It’s no surprise because we know we are a good team. We have to just keep it up and keep winning series,” said Jonathan Schoop, who belted his team co-leading 30th homer in Baltimore’s 8-7 victory over Seattle on Wednesday afternoon. The 25-year-old has four homers and 13 RBIs while hitting safely in 10 of his last 11 games, but is just 5-for-26 with 10 strikeouts in his career versus Thursday starter Marco Estrada. The Orioles have won nine of 12 encounters with the Blue Jays this season and reside 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the race for the AL’s second wild-card spot. Cellar-dwelling Toronto has seen its faint playoff hopes nearly evaporate with losses in four straight and 10 of its last 12 games.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, Sportsnet (Toronto), MASN (Baltimore)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Blue Jays RH Marco Estrada (6-8, 5.04 ERA) vs. Orioles RH Jeremy Hellickson (8-7, 4.88)
Estrada improved to 2-1 in his last four outings on Saturday after allowing three runs in six innings of a 10-9 victory versus Minnesota. The 34-year-old holds the same mark with a 2.77 ERA in seven career appearances in Baltimore. Estrada has pitched brilliantly against the Orioles this season, posting a 1-0 mark after permitting three runs on 14 hits in 20 2/3 innings.
Hellickson yielded two earned runs over seven innings in Friday’s 16-3 rout of Boston to improve to 2-2 in five starts since being acquired from Philadelphia on July 28. The 30-year-old has struggled with the home run ball, as he has been taken deep seven times in his last three outings. Hellickson will look to do a better job keeping Jose Bautista in the yard, as the slugger is batting a robust .364 with three homers in his career against the Iowa native.
1. Baltimore C Welington Castillo, who matched a career high with four hits on Wednesday, is batting .379 with six home runs and 14 RBIs in August.
2. Toronto C Raffy Lopez has two homers, four RBIs and as many runs scored during his last four games.
3. Orioles SS Tim Beckham is riding a nine-game hitting streak and has his safely in 26 of 28 games since joining the team at the trade deadline.
PREDICTION: Orioles 4, Blue Jays 2