Although they have much loftier goals, matching last season's win total with more than a month left in the season would be another accomplishment for the Baltimore Orioles in a year filled with them.
Perfect at home this season against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles will try to keep that intact Saturday night with their 69th win.
While just ending a run of 14 straight losing seasons would be a huge achievement for an Orioles team that has lost at least 90 games each of the last six years, the potential is there for much more. Baltimore (68-57), chasing its first playoff berth since 1997, enters the final week of August tied for the second AL wild card and five games behind the East-leading Yankees.
The Orioles moved within one win of last year's total with a 6-4 victory in Friday's series opener, as Chris Davis had the first three-homer game of his career to support Zach Britton 's strong start.
"I was definitely thinking about the home run," said Davis, who struck out in his final at-bat. "He ( Brad Lincoln ) 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."
Markakis had Baltimore's last three-homer performance on Aug. 22, 2006.
Davis, who has five home runs and eight RBIs in his last five games, is 14 for 35 (.400) with seven homers and 11 RBIs against the Blue Jays in 2012.
Jeff Mathis ' two-run homer in the ninth gave Toronto (56-69) more than three runs for the first time in eight games, but it still matched a season high with its sixth consecutive loss.
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his first game after missing over a month with a sprained left wrist.
"He swung the bat consistent with what we've seen in the past in terms of aggressiveness, bat speed, all that," manager John Farrell said. "But we certainly temper our expectations after the amount of time he's missed, the number of games he's missed. So the fact that he's back with us is the most important thing right now."
Brandon Morrow (7-4, 3.01 ERA) will try to help the Jays avoid their first seven-game skid since a nine-game slide May 19-27, 2009. This will be the right-hander's first start since June 11 after a lengthy stint on the disabled list with a torn left oblique.
Expected to be limited to around 85 pitches, Morrow went 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in three rehab starts for Double-A New Hampshire.
He was excellent in his final two major league starts before the injury, allowing one run and six hits over 15 1-3 innings with four walks and 13 strikeouts.
Morrow is 3-2 with a 4.89 ERA in seven starts against the Orioles but held them to one run and four hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-1 victory May 30.
Baltimore will give Steve Johnson (1-0, 3.27) his second big league start after he was very effective in his first. The right-hander limited Seattle to two runs and five hits with nine strikeouts over six innings in a 9-2 win Aug. 8.
Johnson made his most recent appearance at Texas on Wednesday, giving up one run in one inning.
|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|
|August 02, 2012||Ryan Flaherty||15-Day DL||Bacterial infection|
|July 28, 2012||Jim Thome||15-Day DL||Herniated disc|
BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Orioles have matched their win total of last year, and they've still got 36 games left to play.
It's an impressive accomplishment - and one that barely caused a ripple in the clubhouse.
J.J. Hardy homered and scored three runs, rookie Steve Johnson allowed four hits over six innings and the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Saturday night for their 14th win in 20 games.
Hardy, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters each had two RBIs for the Orioles (69-57), who are in the thick of the AL wild-card chase and only four games out of first place in the AL East after going 69-93 in 2011.
Asked if he ever took a moment to consider what it means to match last year's win total on Aug. 25, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter quickly said, "No."
"I don't think you're going to find anybody in that locker room who knows that unless you tell them," Showalter said. "I think if someone had told us that was going to be the benchmark this year, they'd ask, `Who says that?' Our guys, from Day 1 in spring training, have a loftier goal than having a better record than last year."
The Orioles are also beyond simply trying to end their run of 14 straight losing seasons. Now, it's about reaching the postseason. Period.
"We're in a good position," first baseman Mark Reynolds said. "We're still in the wild-card hunt. It's going to be tight coming down the stretch. If we stay focused on the little things, the big things will take care of themselves."
Jones, whose two-run single in the fifth inning put the Orioles ahead for good, said, "The 69 wins is a product of playing good baseball and competitive baseball on a daily basis. We've got 36 games to go. Let's see our record after 36 games."
Johnson (2-0) gave up two runs, struck out seven and walked two in his second big-league start. The right-hander has 23 strikeouts over 17 innings in five appearances.
"I can't really explain it," he said of his strikeout total.
Toronto lost its seventh straight, and the bad news didn't stop there. Right fielder Jose Bautista left in the third inning with discomfort in his left wrist, just one night after being activated from the disabled list. Bautista was sidelined for 5 1/2 weeks with inflammation in that same wrist.
He was put back on the DL following the game. The slugger will see a hand specialist on Sunday, manager John Farrell said.
"In the meantime, we felt we had to put him on the disabled list," Farrell said.
Toronto also put first baseman David Cooper (back strain) on the DL, activated Adam Lind (back) from the disabled list and recalled infielder Adeiny Hechavarria from Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Blue Jays fell 14 games under .500 (56-70) for the first time since Sept. 25, 2009 (70-84). By dropping the first two games of the three-game set, Toronto has lost six straight series.
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 34th home run in the Blue Jays' season-high eighth straight defeat on the road.
Pitching in the majors for the first time since June 11 following a stint on the disabled list with an oblique strain, Toronto starter Brandon Morrow (7-5) allowed four runs, two earned, and six hits in 4 2-3 innings.
Toronto bolted to a 2-0 lead in the first. After Mike McCoy was thrown out trying to steal, Bautista drew a two-out walk and Encarnacion hit a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats - his third homer in five games and fifth over a 12-game span.
Morrow struck out three of the first five batters he faced before the Orioles loaded the bases with two outs in the second for rookie Manny Machado , who struck out.
Baltimore pulled even with two unearned runs in the third. Nick Markakis scored from second when shortstop Yunel Escobar let a potential double-play grounder skip past him, and Wieters followed with a sacrifice fly.
After Jones singled in two runs in the fifth, Hardy hit a two-run drive off Chad Jenkins in the sixth and Wieters added an RBI single for a 7-2 lead.
Machado drove in a seventh-inning run with a single. He had two hits, matching his total over the previous six games.
NOTES: Before the game, RHP Mike Mussina and 2B Rich Dauer were inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. ... Slumping Colby Rasmus was supposed to have a day off but entered in the third inning for Bautista. Rasmus went 0 for 3 and has three hits in his last 42 at-bats. ... Wieters threw out three would-be base stealers. It's the 14th time an Orioles catcher has performed the feat, the first since Mickey Tettleton in 1988. ... Escobar doubled in the seventh to end a 7-for-47 skid. It was his second extra-base hit in 22 games. ... Baltimore has been outscored 76-48 in the first inning this season.