With bats slumping, Orioles head to Toronto for a big weekend series

With their one-game trip to Minnesota now behind them, the Orioles can now set their sights on the Toronto Blue Jays and a big weekend series at Rogers Centre. It’s a matchup of two of the top teams in the American League East.

The Orioles have been rather streaky since the All-Star break. They won the first two out of the break, then lost four in a row, won five in a row and now have lost three in a row.

Their offense, so dynamic in June, has looked much less than that lately. The Orioles began last night last in the American League since the All-Star break in batting average, runs and OPS and then they scored just two in a 6-2 loss at Minnesota. They’ve scored nine runs in four games and 38 in 14 games (averaging 2.7 per game) in the second half. The Orioles are batting just .159 (14-for-88) with runners in scoring position since the break.

Chris-Davis-gray-close.pngThe Orioles have scored five runs or less in 17 straight games. Before this, they had scored six or more in 18 of the previous 34 games. According to broadcaster Gary Thorne on MASN last night this is the longest stretch scoring five or fewer runs since the Orioles went 21 games in a row in September 2013.

The Orioles and Toronto, however, have put up some runs against each other this year. The season series is tied at five wins each. The Orioles have scored 52 runs in those 10 games and Toronto has scored 60. The Orioles have outhomered the Jays 18-16. Toronto has recorded a team OPS of .885 in the season series, with the Orioles at .865. The O’s team ERA is 5.87.

There were some big fireworks during the Orioles’ previous trip to Rogers Centre June 9-12. The Orioles won the series opener 6-5, then lost 4-3 in 10 innings and lost by scores of 11-6 and 10-9. In those last two games, the Orioles hit eight homers but still lost because they allowed 21 runs. Toronto outfielder Michael Saunders went 9-for-16 in the four games with three doubles, two homers and four RBIs. Saunders is batting .475 (19-for-40) this season against O’s pitching with six doubles, five homers, 12 RBIs and an OPS of 1.511.

Toronto enters this series with a record of 57-45 and has won six of nine and 14 of 20 games. They’ve scored 117 runs in those 20 games and their starters have allowed three or fewer runs in 18 of the last 23 games. This month, Toronto will play 19 of its 24 games at home.

The O’s slumping offense faces quite a challenge this weekend. Toronto will start Marco Estrada (5-4, 2.94 ERA) tonight. He has allowed a batting average against of just .179 on the year. They face lefty J.A. Happ (13-3, 3.27 ERA) on Saturday. He is 3-0 with a 1.48 ERA his past four starts. They face Aaron Sanchez (11-1, 2.72 ERA) on Sunday. Over his past seven starts, he is 5-0 with a 1.53 ERA. A challenge indeed.

The Orioles have lost five of their last six games at Rogers Centre, a ballpark where they have lost more than they’ve won in nine of the last 10 years. In 2015, they went 3-6 in Toronto.

The Orioles put up some runs at Rogers Centre last month, but their offense was going much better then. Will their offense come around this weekend as they try to hold off the Blue Jays and hang onto the AL East lead?

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