Pat Valaika is starting at second base again. His home run last night was his first since July 23.
Austin Hays has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games against the Blue Jays, going 18-for-58 (.310) with four doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight RBIs and a .834 OPS.
Hays has reached base safely in 18 straight games since Sept. 12, the longest active streak in the majors. He’s hit safely in 33 of his last 36 games since Aug. 24 and in 48 of his last 56 since Aug. 1.
More Hays: His nine outfield assists are tied for the seventh-most in the American League and 10th in the majors.
Kelvin Gutiérrez has hit safely in a career-high nine straight games and 13 of his last 14. He’s batting fifth today.
Reliever Cole Sulser hasn’t permitted a run in nine straight appearances. He’s allowed an OBP of just .152 in 81 plate appearances against the third-through-five hitters in the order, the best among qualified relievers in the majors.
John Means makes his 26th and final start this afternoon, one short of his career high in 2019. He’s posted a 3.32 ERA and 1.002 WHIP in 143 2/3 innings.
Somehow, Means is making his first start against the Blue Jays this season. He’s made three career starts against them and allowed four runs and nine hits with 19 strikeouts in 15 innings. He’s never pitched at Rogers Centre, with his two outings last summer coming in Buffalo.
Means’ 2.27 road ERA is the lowest in the American League and third-lowest in the majors among pitchers with a minimum of 75 innings. His 69.1 percent first-pitch strike rate is the second-highest in the AL behind Michael Pineda’s 69.9 and third-highest in the majors behind Julio Urías’ 70.8.
The Orioles are 5-12 against Toronto this season and 20-53 versus the AL East. They’ve lost 18 of their last 22 road games.
They’ve scored 101 runs in the eighth inning, including four last night, their highest total in any frame and tied for second-most in the majors. Hays’ 23 hits in the eighth lead the majors.
The Orioles have two fewer losses than the Diamondbacks with two games left. If their records are idential at the end, the Orioles get the first pick in 2022.
Rookie right-hander Alek Manoah is 8-2 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.099 WHIP in 19 starts and is averaging 6.5 hits and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His 15 hit batters are tied with teammate José Berríos for most in the AL, as the Orioles can attest.
He caused benches and bullpens to empty in a June game at Camden Yards after surrendering back-to-back home runs and drilling Maikel Franco, which led to his suspension.
Manoah has made two starts against the Orioles and allowed five earned runs (six total) with 12 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. He’s registered a 2.47 ERA and 0.930 WHIP in eight starts at home and a 4.08 ERA and 1.238 WHIP in 11 games on the road.
For the Orioles
Cedric Mullins CF
Ryan Mountcastle 1B
Austin Hays RF
Trey Mancini DH
Kelvin Gutiérrez 3B
Ryan McKenna LF
Pat Valaika 2B
Nick Ciuffo C
Richie Martin SS
John Means LHP
For the Blue Jays
George Springer CF
Marcus Semien 2B
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1B
Bo Bichette SS
Teoscar Hernández LF
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. DH
Santiago Espinal 3B
Danny Jansen C
Randal Grichuk RF
Alek Manoah RHP