Manager: John Gibbons (11th season)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: DH Kendrys Morales (21 HR, 53 RBIs), 1B Justin Smoak (19 HR, 61 RBIs), RF Randall Grichuk (18 HR, 45 RBIs), RHP Ken Giles (6 saves)
Season series vs. Orioles: 12-1
Aug. 27: RHP Sam Gaviglio (3-6) vs. RHP David Hess (2-8), 7:05 p.m., MASN
Aug. 28: LHP Thomas Pannone (1-0) vs. TBA, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Aug. 29: RHP Ryan Borucki (3-3) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (4-15), 7:05 p.m., MASN
Inside the Blue Jays:
Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays have long since given up hope of contending in 2018. The are firmly entrenched in fourth place in the American League East, but there are still questions the birds from north of the border need to answer by the end of the season (or shortly thereafter). Will manager John Gibbons, who was recently told he would manage the rest of this season, be back in 2018. Can they get injured third baseman Josh Donaldson out on a rehabilitation assignment soon enough to prove that he’s healthy so they can deal him before the waiver trade deadline on Friday? Is top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. going to get a taste of the majors this season or will Toronto delay his arrival to ensure his service time clock doesn’t start ticking? One thing is for sure: The Blue Jays have had the Orioles’ number this season, winning 12 of 13 games between the teams and going 10-0 at Rogers Centre. Not since they went 11-1 against Baltimore in 1999 have the Blue Jays dominated them like this.
Toronto has split its last 10 games, but no Blue Jay has been more sizzling of late than designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who has homered in seven straight games, setting a team record and becoming the seventh player in major league history to turn the trick. Morales has always been something of an Orioles nemesis, slashing .325/.382/.548 against them with 15 homers and 53 RBIs in his career (including a .328/.383/.560 mark with six homers and 24 RBIs at Camden Yards). His 21 homers lead the Blue Jays. Rookie right fielder Billy McKinney, acquired in the J.A. Happ deal with the Yankees on July 26, has batted .350 over his last eight games and is making a good first impression with his new club. Center fielder Kevin Pillar is finally healthy and hitting again, with a .292 average (21-for-72) in August. Conversely, first baseman Justin Smoak has struggled in August, with a .235 average and only two homers, though his 61 RBIs are tops on the team.
Righty Sam Gaviglio starts the series opener for Toronto, and will try to build in his success from his last start, when he beat the Orioles for his first victory since May 25. He tossed seven inning of six-hit, two-run ball against Baltimore on Aug. 21 at Rogers Centre. Tuesday starter Thomas Pannone, a rookie left-hander, also dominated the O’s last week in Toronto, picking up his first major league victory by throwing seven shutout innings and allowing just one hit in his first career start. Righty Ryan Borucki, who starts Wednesday’s series finale, has won three of his last four decisions, most recently taming the Phillies on two runs over 6 1/3 innings on Aug. 24.
One guy getting a long look out of the Blue Jays bullpen is another recent acquisition, hard-throwing righty Ken Giles, who has assumed the closer’s role. He’s converted six straight saves, though his 7.45 ERA since the trade from the Astros still shows room for improvement.