Manager: John Gibbons (9th season)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: 3B Josh Donaldson (.309/.377/.691 with 5 HR, 13 RBIs), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.309/.339/.455), RF Jose Bautista (.289/.458/.622 with 10 RBIs), RHP Marco Estrada (1-1, 2.77 ERA), RHP Roberto Osuna (4 saves, 3.00 ERA)
Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (11-8 in 2015)
Inside the Blue Jays:
Last year marked the second year in a row the American League East crown was captured at Camden Yards. But unlike in 2014, it wasn't the Orioles who won it; instead, the Blue Jays sealed the division in Baltimore, their first championship in 22 years. Tonight, the Blue Jays return to Oriole Park for the first time since making history on enemy turf in September.
The Jays' recipe for success in 2015 was simple and not unlike the Orioles' for the past couple of seasons: offense, and a lot of it. There were few offensive statistical categories Toronto did not lead the majors in last year: The Blue Jays' 891 runs, 232 home runs, 852 RBIs, .340 on-base percentage, .457 slugging percentage and .797 OPS all topped baseball in 2015, while their .269 batting average tied for second by .001 of a point.
Alas, a young new season has brought some different results for John Gibbons' club. They rank fifth in the American League in runs (52) and RBIs (49), sixth in homers (14), and their slash line barely puts them in the top 10. But that's not due to lack of effort from reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson. The third baseman is tied with the Orioles' Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo and the Mariners' Robinson Cano for the league lead with five home runs. Donaldson is also leading the AL with 13 RBIs, while slashing an impressive .309/.377/.691.
Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion's line is right there with the MVP's at .309/.339/.455, although he has only hit two longballs with four RBIs. Even right fielder Jose Bautista has a solid hitting line of .298/.458/.622 and has contributed three homers and 10 RBIs. It's last year's trade deadline acquisition, Troy Tulowitzki, who is struggling among the Jays' power bats, batting just .140 with two home runs and six RBIs. The shortstop isn't the only one slowing down this potent offense, but he doesn't have a multi-hit game this season and has only recorded hits in consecutive games once, to give you an idea of where he's at this early in the season.
The Blue Jays will send out three right-handers to match the three Orioles right-handers this series. Marcus Stroman, 24, starts the opener, bringing his 2-0 record and 3.42 ERA to the mound. He went eight innings in each of his wins this season. Stroman is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his three appearances (two starts) against the Orioles, both results coming at Camden Yards, where he posts a 3.86 ERA. Tomorrow night's starter, R.A. Dickey, is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA over his three starts this year, both losses coming at the hands of the Red Sox. The knuckleballer is 2-6 in his career against the Birds with a 3.93 ERA, and 1-3 with a 3.09 ERA at Camden Yards. Marco Estrada gets Thursday's finale and is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA on the season. The one loss came on the road, which relates to his 0-1 record and 4.75 ERA in Baltimore.
The Blue Jays will return to Camden Yards with fond memories of clinching a championship. But they'll be facing an Orioles team with a bad taste in its mouth after the events of last September, and who, after starting this season 7-0, have lost three of their last four games. Look for an offensive slugfest between these two teams in a hitter's ballpark with warm weather finally arriving, and pay attention to the animosity between them.