The Toronto Blue Jays were at the .500 mark with hopes of making a run at the postseason when Jose Bautista got hurt.
More than two months and a considerable drop in the standings later, Toronto hopes its slugger can provide a much-needed jolt in the lineup.
Bautista is expected to return as the slumping Blue Jays visit the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a three-game series Friday night.
Toronto was 45-45 and very much in contention for one of the AL's wild-card spots before Bautista sprained his left wrist in a loss to the New York Yankees on July 16.
The Blue Jays (56-68) have since gone 11-23 and hit .229 as a team, and they've lost five straight and 19 of 24 following Thursday's 3-2, 11-inning loss to Detroit.
They've scored more than three runs in only five of those contests, and Colby Rasmus endured an 0-for-26 slump before his fourth-inning single.
"Everyone here knows the battles we've had, the struggles we've had currently on the offensive side, but that doesn't take away from the way we prepare," manager John Farrell told the team's official website.
Toronto hopes the return of Bautista, who was hitting .244 with 27 homers before the injury, can provide a spark to a lineup that continues to remain positive.
"We haven't had a few key hits when we needed them and it's cost us a couple ball games, but we're playing good ball," outfielder Anthony Gose said. "There's nothing for us to really hang our heads about."
Baltimore (67-57) remains confident after splitting a six-game road trip at Detroit and Texas despite falling 12-3 to the Rangers on Wednesday.
Nick Markakis is hitting .444 during a seven-game hitting streak after going 3 for 4 and driving in all three runs. The Orioles are tied with Detroit and Oakland for the second wild-card spot.
"It's a great road trip against these two teams," Markakis told the team's official website. "It's definitely good. We could have won a game or two more, but we can't hang our heads."
Baltimore will look to bounce back against Blue Jays starter Carlos Villanueva , who has pitched well despite going 0-3 with a 3.55 ERA over his last four starts.
Villanueva (6-3, 3.10 ERA) allowed two runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday's 2-1 loss to Texas, pitching six full innings for the seventh time in his nine starts this season.
"Going out there, going six, seven innings every time and giving the guys a chance to win is what we get paid for as starters, especially," Villanueva said.
The right-hander will be opposed by Zach Britton , who is coming off his best outing of the season. Britton (2-1, 6.23) allowed six hits in seven scoreless innings of Saturday's 3-2 win over Detroit - a welcomed performance after giving up 20 runs over his previous three starts.
"There wasn't any panic in his eyes," manager Buck Showalter said. "He had a presence."
The left-hander's lone start versus Toronto was an 8-4 loss on June 3, 2011, when he lost to Villanueva after allowing seven runs in five innings.
It's unclear if Britton will have Matt Wieters as his catcher after Wieters was hit with a foul ball in the right shoulder Wednesday. X-rays were negative and he's listed as day to day.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|August 22, 2012||David Cooper||Day-to-Day||Left game - jammed neck|
|August 19, 2012||David Cooper||Day-to-Day||Lower back tightness|
|August 12, 2012||Kelly Johnson||Day-to-Day||Groin injury|
|August 11, 2012||Colby Rasmus||Day-to-Day||Groin injury|
|August 04, 2012||Brett Lawrie||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|August 03, 2012||Brett Lawrie||Day-to-Day||Left game - rib cage tightness|
|August 22, 2012||Matt Wieters||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder contusion|
|August 13, 2012||Troy Patton||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|August 12, 2012||Wilson Betemit||15-Day DL||Sore right wrist|
|August 02, 2012||Ryan Flaherty||15-Day DL||Bacterial infection|
|July 28, 2012||Jim Thome||15-Day DL||Herniated disc|
|July 16, 2012||Robert Andino||15-Day DL||Left shoulder subluxation|
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Stepping to the plate with a chance to become the 17th player in baseball history to hit four home runs in a game, Chris Davis had one thing in mind.
"I was thinking about trying to work a walk," Davis said with a wry grin.
Davis didn't get that fourth homer, but three was quite enough to power the Baltimore Orioles to a 6-4 victory over the skidding Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.
Davis hit solo shots off Carlos Villanueva (6-4) in the second and fourth innings, then greeted Steve Delabar in the sixth with an opposite-field, two-run drive to left field to put Baltimore up 5-1.
Facing Brad Lincoln in the eighth inning, Davis took three mighty swings but struck out on four pitches.
"I was definitely thinking about the home run," Davis said. "He gave me a good pitch to hit on the first pitch and I fouled it off. He was tough after that, but the biggest thing is we get the win and I enjoyed a pretty good night."
To say the least.
It was the first three-homer game for Davis, whose previous high was two on May 26, 2009, against the Yankees as a member of the Texas Rangers . The three home runs gave him 23 for the season, eclipsing his previous career high of 21 in 2009.
After the last one, Davis stepped out of the dugout to acknowledge the request for a curtain call by the crowd of 25,754. He's the 19th Oriole to hit three home runs in a game, the first since Nick Markakis in August 2006.
"It was awesome," Davis said of the ovation. "I mean, these fans have been awesome all year."
On Wednesday night, Adrian Beltre hit three homers for Texas against Baltimore. The Orioles, who were off Thursday, become the first team in major league history to be involved in two straight games in which a player homered three times, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Zach Britton (3-1) allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings for the Orioles, who have won seven of 11 to remain in the thick of the AL wild-card race.
After Jeff Mathis hit a two-run homer off Matt Lindstrom in the ninth, Jim Johnson got three outs for his 39th save.
It was the sixth straight defeat for the last-place Blue Jays and their season-high seventh consecutive loss on the road. But Toronto did, at least, end a run of seven successive games without scoring more than three runs.
Unfortunately for the Jays, their offensive outburst wasn't enough to overcome Davis' three long balls.
"He had a good day," Villanueva said. "He's capable of doing that. You make some mistakes, he did what you're supposed to do with them. Especially the last two. He won them the ballgame, simple as that."
Earlier in the day, the Blue Jays activated Jose Bautista (left wrist inflammation) from the 15-day disabled list. Playing in his first major league game since July 16, Bautista went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Toronto went up 1-0 in the second inning when Edwin Encarnacion doubled and came home on a single by Kelly Johnson . The Blue Jays didn't get another hit until Encarnacion singled with two outs in the sixth.
Davis connected on Villanueva's first pitch in the bottom of the second. It was the 66th home run in the 21-year history of Camden Yards to land on Eutaw Street in front of the B&O Warehouse, the third hit by Davis.
In the fourth, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy dived behind second base to make a sensational stop on a grounder by Johnson and got a force out with a backhanded flip to second.
Davis homered to center on a 2-2 pitch in the fourth. His sixth-inning drive, on Delabar's second pitch, followed a sacrifice fly by Matt Wieters .
Toronto's Rajai Davis doubled in a run in the seventh before Brian Matusz struck out Colby Rasmus on three pitches. It was the first relief appearance by Matusz after 68 career starts.
NOTES: The Orioles recalled Matusz from Triple-A Norfolk, designated LHP J.C. Romero for assignment, activated INF Ryan Flaherty from the DL and optioned RHP Tommy Hunter to Double-A Bowie. ... Baltimore RHP Jason Hammel , (15-day DL, right knee) threw a simulated game off the mound at Camden Yards. The Orioles will check his knee for swelling Saturday before determining the next step for his return. Also, INF Wilson Betemit (right wrist) could begin a rehabilitation assignment as soon as Tuesday. ... After the game, the Blue Jays activated RHP Brandon Morrow from the DL and will start him on Saturday night. Toronto also activated Yunel Escobar from the paternity list and optioned OF Anthony Gose and SS Adeiny Hechavarria to Triple-A Las Vegas.