O's game blog: The road trip begins with Toronto series opener

TORONTO – The Orioles have played just one of their past six series against an American League East team, but starting tonight, for the first time this year they will play back-to-back series against division opponents. Tonight they play the first of a weekend series in Toronto at Rogers Centre. They'll then head to New York for a series next week at Yankee Stadium.

The Orioles (28-16) are 3 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay for first in the AL East. They just completed a 6-4 homestand with Thursday’s 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The Orioles went 2-1 versus Tampa Bay, 2-1 against Pittsburgh and 2-2 versus the Angels during the homestand. They are now 9-7 in May and 10-3-1 in 14 series for the year.

The Orioles went 6-4 on their last road trip, which took them to Detroit, Kansas City and Atlanta. They are 13-8 on the road for the season and are 5-2 in road series. The Orioles are 12-2 in 2023 in series-opening games, going 7-0 in road series openers.

Serving as the designated hitter on Thursday, Adley Rutschman launched his seventh homer of the season with a 424-foot blast in the seventh inning to give the O’s a 5-4 lead. It marked his second career go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later, joining a solo walk-off homer on April 13 vs. Oakland. Rutschman has hit safely in eight straight starts since May 9, slashing .357/.471/.750 (10-for-28) in those games.

O’s right fielder Anthony Santander tied the game at three with a two-run blast in the fifth inning, his seventh longball of the year. He has homered six times in his last 19 games after homering just once in his first 22. Santander is batting .339/.406/.645 (21-for-62) in May and has hit safely in 13 of 16 games, compared to .213/.280/.362 (20-for-94) in March/April.

O’s third sacker Gunnar Henderson singled in the second inning and has hit safely in six straight games for the first time in his career, going 7-for-22 (.318) with four extra-base hits. He has reached base safely in nine straight games since May 9. And second baseman Joey Ortiz recorded his first career multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a run scored in the series finale with Los Angeles.

Toronto (25-19) lost 4-2 at home to the New York Yankees last night, dropping three of four in that series after sweeping Atlanta three in a row in the previous series. The Blue Jays are 13-6 at home.

Toronto has lost three of four, five of nine and 10 of its last 17 games.

O's right-hander Kyle Gibson (4-3, 4.67 ERA) will make his 10th start for his new team. He has thrown 52 innings on the year, allowing 57 hits with a 1.404 WHIP, 2.8 walk rate and 6.2 strikeout rate. The Orioles are 5-4 in his starts.

Gibson had a 3.93 ERA in six starts through April, but is 0-3 with a 6.11 ERA in May. This month opponents have hit .319 off him with an OPS of .831.

In 11 career games versus Toronto he is 5-2 with a 4.81 ERA. In four career Rogers Centre starts, Gibson is 2-1 with a 5.96 ERA.

Lefty Yusei Kikuchi (5-0, 3.89 ERA) gets the start for Toronto, which is 7-1 in his outings in 2023. But in his past three starts, he has allowed five runs twice for a 5.52 ERA in that span, allowing five homers in 14 2/3 innings with a .333 opponent batting average and 1.014 OPS.

In six games last year against the Orioles, Kikuchi went 2-3 with an 8.10 ERA and allowed seven homers in 16 2/3 innings. In eight career games against Baltimore, he is 3-4 with a 6.37 ERA and .925 OPS against.

The Orioles are 6-6 in AL East games and 1-2 on the road, losing two of three to start the year at Boston. They are 3-3 against the Red Sox, 1-2 versus the Yankees and 2-1 against the Rays. The Blue Jays are 5-9 within the division, going 3-4 against New York, 2-1 versus Tampa Bay and 0-4 against Boston.

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