O's game blog: The series opener at Toronto

TORONTO – The Rogers Centre used to be a place where the Orioles came to often lose. But the 2023 Orioles are different. They came here in May and swept three from the Blue Jays by scores of 6-2, 6-5 in 10 innings and 8-3 in 11 innings. 

It was a stunning result when you consider the O’s had not swept three at Toronto since April 22-24, 2005. They had not swept an American League East series since taking three from the Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 2-4, 2021.

In the 2018 season, the Orioles went 0-10 in Toronto.

As the teams begin a new four-game series tonight in Toronto, it’s a big series with the Blue Jays playing better baseball and hoping to still make a run for the top spot in the division. This is their chance to gain on the Orioles.

The Blue Jays (59-47) lost in 10 innings 3-2 to the Angels on Sunday, but they are 5-2 their past seven games and 14-7 over the last 21 games. In their past 55 games, Toronto is 33-22 and playing .600 ball.

The Orioles held Toronto to 10 runs in the sweep in May and the Blue Jays went 6-for-38 with runners in scoring position that series. Vlad Guerrero Jr. was 1-for-13 with six strikeouts and no RBIs.

And Toronto, frankly, needs to prove it can beat AL East teams. While the Orioles lost their first two AL East series of this season, Toronto won its first two. But they have lost all six series since, going amazingly just 3-18 in the division in that span. That includes them going 0-4 versus Boston, 1-3 against New York, 0-3 against Baltimore, 1-3 versus Tampa Bay, 1-2 versus Baltimore and 0-3 against Boston. Toronto is 7-20 (.259) for the season against the AL East. So they are 52-27 (.658) against all other clubs.

The Orioles (64-41) lead the AL East by 1 1/2 games over the Rays and 5.5 over the Jays after Sunday's 9-3 win over the Yankees. They won the weekend series and the season series (7-6) against New York.

The Orioles are now 7-0-2 in their past nine series versus AL East teams, going 21-13 this season within the division. In those last nine unbeaten series, they are 19-9 in AL East games. They are 5-1 on the year against Toronto. 

O’s right-hander Kyle Gibson (9-6, 4.68 ERA) gets the start in the series opener, coming off an outing where he gave up two runs in six innings at Philadelphia. He has recorded a quality start in three of his past four outings. He has 11 quality starts for the year and four outings of seven innings or more.

On May 19 at Toronto, Gibson went seven and gave up just five hits and one run on 95 pitches. In six starts this year versus the AL East, he is 3-2 with a 3.41 ERA, allowing a .221 batting average and .626 OPS.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt (10-5, 3.91 ERA) is having a solid season. But one of his worst starts came June 13 in Baltimore. Over three innings, he allowed a season-high 11 hits and eight runs. That was not a season high for runs as he gave up nine in an April start versus St. Louis. But that night, the Orioles led 8-1 at the end of the third on their way to an 11-6 win. Bassitt gave up two-run homers to Adam Frazier and Ryan O’Hearn and a grand slam to Gunnar Henderson. The O’s hit .550 against him in that game, which produced an ERA of 24.00.

But in his past three games, he has not allowed more than two runs in any of them. He is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in that span, allowing a .608 OPS.

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