Opposite dugout: Blue Jays host Orioles hoping to end four-game skid

blue-jays-logo.jpgManager: John Gibbons (6th season)

Record: 55-69

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: 1B Justin Smoak (.257), LF Teoscar Hernández (18 HR), CF Kevin Pillar (13 SB), SS Aledmys Díaz (15 HR, 37 RBIs) RF Randal Grichuk (17 HR, 74 RBIs), RHP Ken Giles (15 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 9-1

Pitching probables:

Aug. 20: RHP Andrew Cashner (4-10) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (6-9), 7:07 p.m., MASN
Aug. 21: RHP Dylan Bundy (7-11) vs. RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-5), 7:07 p.m., MASN
Aug. 22: RHP David Hess (1-4) vs. LHP Thomas Pannone (0-0), 12:37 p.m., MASN

Inside the Blue Jays:

Both teams at the bottom of the AL East will duke it out over the next three days in a series that doesn’t have any playoff implications whatsoever. The Blue Jays are sitting at 55-69 and tensions have been simmering as of late. Manager John Gibbons was ejected yesterday for the sixth time this season in Toronto’s series finale against the Yankees. Already heated as a result of Kevin Pillar’s ill-advised and failed attempted steal to third base in the top of the sixth inning, the skipper trekked over toward the officials to argue a call at first base. Following the removal of their manager, the contest eventually was put out of reach, and the Blue Jays were swept by the Yankees, extending thier losing streak to four games. Toronto has won all seven games it has played against the Orioles at Rogers Centre this season.

For a disappointing season, there have been some silver linings in the clubhouse. Randal Grichuk blasted his 17th homer of the season yesterday against his former teammate J.A. Happ in the top of the first inning. The 27-year-old right fielder finished 2-of-4 with a homer and a double in the series finale loss to the Bronx Bombers. Pillar was a lone bright spot on the past road trip, finishing 10-for-26 with a homer and seven RBIs. Curtis Granderson found the fountain of youth on Wednesday night against the Royals and launched the 10th grand slam of his 17-year major league career. With so many key contributors out due to injury, many observers question whether it is worth it to call up baseball’s top prospect, Vlad Guerrero Jr. up from the farm. With rosters set to expand in September, there appears to be a good chance to see him on the national stage. The son of the recently enshrined Hall of Famer and ex-Oriole Vladimir Guerrero is currently batting .345 in Triple-A and is a little over a week removed from homering in four straight contests. With the playoffs no longer on the horizon, some wonder whether it would stunt his development by being inserted into the big leagues at 19. Others will say that it will boost his confidence and help his progression. Only time will tell whether he makes the trip to Rogers Centre before season’s end, but the young star in the making gives Toronto hope for the future.

Marco Estrada (4.87 ERA) takes the mound this evening in the series opener against Baltimore. In his last outing on Aug. 15 against the Royals, the right-hander picked up the victory, allowing four runs on six hits and one walk in just over six innings. On the season against the O’s, Estrada is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts. Sam Gaviglio took the defeat in his last start on Aug. 14 against Kansas City, giving up five runs on eight hits in only four innings. In the two outings prior to that, the 28-year-old righty struck out at least seven batters in back-to-back starts for the first time in his career. Lefty Thomas Pannone will make his first career start on Wednesday in the series finale against the Orioles. Pannone was recalled yesterday from Triple-A Buffalo. Once starters Marcus Stroman (10-day DL) and Aaron Sanchez (60-day DL), who are both suffering from finger injuries, return to the team, Pannone will most likely return to the minors.

Ken Giles (15 saves) has collected saves in his last three appearances on Aug. 12, 14 and 15.

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