Pregame notes from Toronto on series importance and more

TORONTO – As the Orioles begin a huge weekend series in Toronto tonight, manager Brandon Hyde said yes, it’s a big series, but it doesn’t feel all that different to him and he doesn’t think it will be that way for his team either.

The Orioles (75-67) begin the series five games back of both Seattle and Toronto, the holders of the first two American League wild card spots. The O’s begin the weekend 4 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for third AL wild card.

“I feel like we’ve been playing these games for about two months,” Hyde said this afternoon in the visitors dugout at Rogers Centre. “It kind of started that last series at Tampa. Didn’t it feel like must-win games in August? I don’t know why it felt that way, but it kind of did. So, I feel like we’ve been playing to try and hang in this thing for a while now.

“Before that Toronto series, we won five series in a row. Two tough series on the road. So I just hope we continue to play that way. I don’t think, because of the games we’ve been playing in so long and the attitude our guys have taken, I don’t think it’s anything different right now.”

Hyde is aware that win or lose, his players, most of them on the younger side, are gaining some great pennant race pressure experience.

“It’s only going to help them going forward,” said Hyde. “No doubt about it. And we don’t play in many lopsided-score games either. We play mostly tight games, and for them to be getting this experience up here and doing so well as young players, it’s only going to be beneficial for us and for them in the future.”

Hyde said closer Félix Bautista came out of a 15-pitch save outing on Tuesday at Washington fine. He is healthy after the O’s held him out of about a week’s worth of games with a tired arm.

“I didn’t know what to expect, honestly, because he had a layoff coming off his arm being tired,” Hyde said of Bautista's outing Tuesday when he walked the leadoff man but retired three straight, two via strikeouts, for his 13th save. “But once he got that runner on base, he looked like Bautista again. Cranked it back up and was really good.”

While Hyde has said his preference is not to use Bautista again for any six-out saves, he still could push him some nights to get four outs or maybe five.

“Possibly we could (extend him)," the skipper said. "But he has thrown so many innings this season already and so many appearances, I’d rather stay away from the two-inning appearances.

“Possibly. It also depends, did I use him the day before? All that kind of stuff."

Hyde said Rougned Odor’s bruised right hand feels good and he is starting tonight for the first time since Sunday against Boston. Hyde said he was available each night in Washington.

Tonight begins a grueling stretch for the Orioles where they will play 20 games over the next 20 days to end the regular season. When asked if he has to manage differently during such a busy stretch, Hyde said the club has been making adjustments recently knowing this stretch was coming. Sort of a preemptive strike.

“We’ve actually been doing less (pregame) the last few weeks," he said. "As the games pile up you try to monitor your pregame workload as much as you can. We do a lot of optional things with our guys right now. I just want guys to be ready to play at seven, honestly. And it’s about winning the game. So you do cut back on maybe some time on the field. It’s weather dependent too. We had a stretch in Baltimore where it was so hot, so we cut back some because of that."

The O's Ryan Mountcastle was asked the difference for the Orioles this year in going 7-6 verus Toronto to last year when they were 5-14.

"I just think our pitching," he said. "Their lineup is maybe top three in baseball, so our pitchers have been doing a great job in keeping them in the yard. We have to limit their run production and we have to try and get their starters out and get to their bullpen. It's going to be a tough series, but we're excited for it." 

O's game blog: The Toronto series begins
Orioles and Blue Jays lineups

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