The Baltimore Orioles will have a chance to make up ground in the race for an American League wild-card spot when they open a three-game road series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.
The Orioles (75-67), who lost 110 games last season, are 4 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays (80-63), who occupy the final wild-card spot.
The Orioles, who had Thursday off after winning two straight at Washington, are five games behind the Blue Jays (81-63) and the Seattle Mariners (80-62), who occupy the top two wild-card positions.
The Blue Jays lost 11-0 to the visiting Rays on Thursday but still won three times in the five-game series.
“Always pleased to win a series,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. “Tough day today, but we move on and open another big series (Friday). You have to just flush it and move on.”
Using the term “big series” shows just how far the Orioles have come.
“We’ve come a long way. …in a short amount of time,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “I don’t think people really understand how hard that is. If you look around, we don’t have guys making much money compared to the rest of the league. We have guys playing hard and playing to win, and they’re exciting to watch.”
Right-hander Jordan Lyles (10-10, 4.62 ERA) will start for the Orioles on Friday. Lyles is 3-1 with a 6.67 ERA, in six career games (five starts) against Toronto.
The Blue Jays had not named a starter as of Thursday night.
“I think it’ll be a bullpen game of some kind, similar to what we’ve done in the past couple of outings with that spot,” Schneider said.
Orioles players feel that Hyde has had a lot to do with the team’s surprisingly quick turnaround.
“He’s all about the player,” Lyles told the Baltimore Sun. “I haven’t heard one negative thing about him.”
Lyles said that Hyde is open to input from the more experienced players on a young team.
“He just wants it to be a tight-knit group where everyone believes in one another and just you can be open to come to him at any time, baseball-wise or personal-life stuff,” Lyles said. “He’s very comfortable to be around.
“With how young this clubhouse is, it can be intimidating for player versus manager, especially a rookie or young guy, second-, third-year guy, but he’s thrown that out the door.”
The Blue Jays won three of four against the Orioles from Sept. 5-7 — a series in Baltimore that included a doubleheader sweep.
The Orioles, however, lead the season series 7-6.
Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk did not play on Thursday because Schneider said he is dealing with “a little left hip tightness.”
“He’s kind of day-to-day,” Schneider said. “We’re just being a little bit careful.”
The Orioles will have to contend with Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette, who continued his hot hitting on Thursday by going 2-for-4 with a double. He has reached base in all 15 games in September, batting .484 (31-for-64) with nine doubles, a triple, seven homers and 22 RBIs.
Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 1-for-4 Thursday to extend his hitting streak to nine games. He is 12-for-40 (.300) with four doubles, a homer and three RBIs in that span.
–Field Level Media