Manager: John Gibbons (11th season)
Last 10 games: 2-8
Who to watch: 3B Yangervis Solarte (.251 with 12 HR, 36 RBIs); 1B Justin Smoak (.253 with 9 HR, 33 RBIs); CF Kevin Pillar (.254, 58 hits, 20 2B); LHP J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.08 ERA); RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.48 ERA)
Season series vs. Orioles: 2-1
June 7: RHP Andrew Cashner (2-7) vs. LHP Jaime García (2-4); 7:07 p.m., MASN
June 8: RHP Kevin Gausman (3-5) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (7-3); 7:07 p.m., MASN2
June 9: RHP David Hess (2-2) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-5); 1:07 p.m., MASN2
June 10: RHP Alex Cobb (2-7) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (2-6); 1:07 p.m., MASN
Inside the Blue Jays:
Take a quick dive into the numbers, and you’ll notice the similarities between the Orioles and Blue Jays. It’s no secret both teams are struggling this season, with Toronto sitting in fourth place in the American League East, and Baltimore holding steady in the cellar. Both clubs are struggling offensively and on the mound, and both will likely look to trade away key pieces in order to re-tool for the future. Offensively, comparing the two teams is eerie. The Orioles are 27th in the majors with a .231 team batting average, while the Jays are 29th at .227. Toronto ranks 26th in the majors with a .307 team on-base percentage, while Baltimore sits last at .293. Even the pitching numbers are strikingly similar: the Blue Jays rank 25th in the majors with a 4.80 ERA, with the Orioles close behind at 26th with a 4.93 ERA. In any case, both teams appear to be on their way toward losing seasons, and will look to 2019 and beyond to get back on track.
Things actually started out promising for the Blue Jays. They went 15-10 in April, and were in second place in the division for much of the month. However, injuries and woes at the plate have taken their toll, and a 9-19 month of May has landed Toronto looking up in the standings. If there’s been a bright spot in the Jays’ lineup, it’s been infielder Yangervis Solarte. His name may make for quite the challenge in a spelling bee, but Solarte has certainly met the challenge offensively this season. In his first year with the team, Solarte leads the team with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. He established career-highs in those categories last year with the Padres (18 HR, 64 RBIs), but it looks like he’ll surpass those numbers with ease. Though his numbers are trending a bit down, first baseman Justin Smoak still has plenty of power. Smoak launched a career-best 38 homers in 2017, and though he has just nine this season, he’s still a threat at the plate. As for the rest of the team’s top hitters, it’s been an injury-plagued campaign. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki landed on the disabled list in spring training after having surgery to remove bone spurs in both of his heels, and is expected to be out until at least the end of June. And third baseman Josh Donaldson was just placed on the 10-day DL with left calf tightness, though he may return this weekend for part of the series.
Let’s talk pitching, where left-hander Jaime García will start tonight’s series opener. García has had an up-and-down season with the Jays, amassing a 2-4 record with a 6.08 ERA. In his previous five starts, the 31-year-old has allowed six, one, six, one and four earned runs, respectively, so García will look for some consistency against the Orioles. J.A. Happ, meanwhile, has been consistently good this season, posting a 7-3 record and a respectable 4.08 ERA. Happ faced the Orioles on April 9, and tallied nine strikeouts en route to a quality start. In fact, entering Wednesday, Happ ranked 14th in the majors in strikeouts with 87, and has thrown at least eight punchouts in eight of his 12 starts. Aaron Sanchez is two years removed from a Cy Young-worthy season, during which he went 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA. Last year, the right-hander battled injuries all season, but has been solid through a dozen starts in 2018. In his career, Sanchez is 6-3 against Baltimore, boasting a 3.97 ERA. Sunday’s series finale will feature veteran Marco Estrada. Estrada has struggled a bit this season, going 2-6 with a 5.68 ERA. Some of that might be taken with a grain of salt, however, as seven of the right-hander’s 11 starts have come against divisional opponents. Back on April 11, Estrada was roughed up against the Orioles, lasting only four innings and giving up four earned runs in a Baltimore victory.
Through the team’s first 15 games, closer Roberto Osuna picked up nine saves, and looked to be on track to reach 30 saves for the third straight season. But an off-the-field domestic incident landed Osuna on administrative leave, and earlier this week, Major League Baseball announced it has extended the reliever’s leave through June 11. In his absence, the Blue Jays have turned to different arms in the bullpen, including Tyler Clippard, Ryan Tepera and Seunghwan Oh.