While the Baltimore Orioles concluded an overall successful road trip in disappointing fashion over the weekend, they return home with what appears to be a good opportunity to get back on track.
The Orioles continue their quest for the AL East title Monday in a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays, who try to avoid a season high-tying seventh consecutive defeat and sixth straight at Camden Yards.
Baltimore's season-best six-game winning streak came to end with a 2-1 loss to Boston on Sunday, completing its trek with a 6-3 record. The Orioles (87-65) wasted a chance to draw even with division-leading New York and saw their wild-card lead over Oakland cut to one after the Athletics beat the Yankees 5-4.
"We needed this one. Obviously, going down to this last stretch every game is looked at as a must win," center fielder Adam Jones said. "We had a good road trip. We really, really wanted this one to finish off the road trip, but it happens."
The Orioles have to like their chances of bouncing back with the last-place Blue Jays (66-85) coming to town. Toronto has hit .182 and been outscored 24-9 in dropping all five games in Baltimore this season.
Losers of 10 of 12 overall, the Blue Jays are coming off an 0-6 trip. Toronto dropped three in a row to the Yankees before totaling six runs in three games against Tampa Bay over the weekend, falling 3-0 on Sunday.
"We had opportunities in the fifth, sixth and seventh," manager John Farrell said. "A two-out hit was elusive, and in the end we're sitting there with a goose egg on the board."
Scoring runs might not be any easier for Toronto in the series opener against Steve Johnson (3-0, 1.91 ERA). The rookie has made two starts among his 10 appearances this year - the last one coming Aug. 25 versus the Blue Jays, when he gave up two runs, four hits and struck out seven over six innings to win 8-2.
Johnson has posted a 3.00 ERA in his two starts while striking out 16 in 12 innings. The right-hander has thrown 11 1-3 scoreless innings of relief since the Aug. 25 outing.
Opposing Johnson will be Henderson Alvarez (9-13, 4.87), who yielded three runs over seven innings of a 4-2 road loss to New York on Wednesday.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.48 ERA in four career starts against the Orioles, pitching at least seven innings and allowing three or fewer runs in each appearance.
Wei-Yin Chen (12-9, 3.98) and fellow hard-luck left-hander Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.72) will square off in Game 2.
Chen has gone 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in his last five outings - a stretch in which the Orioles have provided him with an average of 2.1 runs of support.
In his last start, Chen allowed two runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 4-2, 18-inning win at Seattle on Tuesday. This will be his first appearance against Toronto.
Romero, 0-13 with a 7.42 ERA in his last 15 starts, finally showed signs of coming around in the nightcap of a doubleheader against New York on Wednesday. He allowed one run in six innings despite walking five and giving up seven hits in a 2-1 loss. He didn't get a decision.
"Obviously, you want to go deeper into the game and you aren't happy with the five walks, but there were some good walks, meaning you didn't give in to some hitters in some situations," Romero told the Blue Jays' official website. "It was finally giving that late bite and fooling some hitters; it's a good sign."
Romero's losing streak is tied for the longest in team history, a mark set by Tom Underwood from Aug. 28, 1978-June 10, 1979.
Romero, though, has gone 7-1 with a 2.43 ERA in his last nine matchups with Baltimore. He gave up four runs in six innings in his only game against them this season, an 8-6 victory May 29.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|September 16, 2012||Edwin Encarnacion||Day-to-Day||Sore right big toe|
|September 04, 2012||J.A. Happ||15-Day DL||Fractured right foot|
|August 27, 2012||Henderson Alvarez||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shin contusion|
|August 27, 2012||Aaron Laffey||Day-to-Day||Left game - left calf contusion|
|August 26, 2012||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left wrist inflammation|
|August 23, 2012||David Cooper||15-Day DL||Upper back soreness|
|September 11, 2012||Jason Hammel||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee injury|
|September 09, 2012||Nick Markakis||Day-to-Day||Broken left thumb|
|September 02, 2012||Chris Tillman||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff right elbow|
|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 13, 2012||Troy Patton||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Adam Jones has waited his entire career to be in a pennant race, and he's making the most of it.
Jones went 4 for 4 with a homer and two RBIs, and the Baltimore Orioles moved within a half-game of the AL East lead with a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday in the opener of a doubleheader.
Ryan Flaherty hit a solo shot for the Orioles, who matched the division-leading New York Yankees in the win column (88). New York was scheduled to play at Minnesota on Monday night.
The victory also solidified Baltimore's grasp on the top AL wild-card slot over Oakland.
Jones' four hits tied a career high. He has hit safely in 18 of 22 games in September, with six home runs and 13 RBIs.
"Adam relishes competition," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's obviously had a heck of a year. He's turning into quite a player."
Asked if Jones deserves consideration for AL MVP, Showalter replied, "This team, we haven't really thought about that type of stuff yet. That will be fodder when our work's done here."
Now in his seventh season, Jones has already set a career high with 32 homers, and his two runs scored put him over 100 for the first time. After enjoying his fifth multi-RBI game this month, the All-Star center fielder needs to drive in three more runs to eclipse his previous high of 83, set last year.
Orioles rookie Steve Johnson (4-0) allowed three hits over five shutout innings to lower his ERA to 1.62. Half his big league wins have come against Toronto.
Although the Jays got two runners on base in three of the first four innings, Johnson worked out of trouble on each occasion.
"When you do that, you have to make a pitch in there, just bear down, throw a few pitches, make sure they don't make good contact on it," he said.
Jim Johnson , the fifth Baltimore pitcher, worked the ninth for his 48th save in 51 opportunities.
It was the seventh straight loss for the Blue Jays, matching a season high. Toronto has been outscored 46-17 during the skid, which began during a three-trip to Yankee Stadium and continued in Tampa Bay.
"We can't run from what's taking place, and yet we have to continue to battle," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
Henderson Alvarez (9-14) gave up four runs, eight hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings. He's 2-7 in his last 10 starts.
Speaking through an interpreter, Alvarez addressed the two homers he yielded by saying, "Pitch to Jones was high changeup. He's a good hitter and he did what he was supposed to do with that pitch. The other kid, the second baseman, (I) felt like it was a good pitch and he did a good job with it."
In the fourth, Chris Davis walked and Jones followed with a drive to left to put Baltimore up 2-0. Flaherty connected in the fifth, and Jones singled in the sixth and came home on a double-play grounder.
Toronto scored in the eighth on an RBI double by Rajai Davis . With runners on second and third and two outs, Darren O'Day came in to strike out Kelly Johnson .
NOTES: Toronto purchased the contracts of RHPs Shawn Hill and Bobby Korecky and transferred LHP J.A. Happ (foot) to the 60-day DL. ... Orioles LHP Randy Wolf is experiencing discomfort in his left elbow and will undergo an MRI on Tuesday. ... Seventeen of Jones' HRs have given the Orioles the lead. Baltimore is 23-8 when he homers. ... Toronto has lost six straight in Baltimore during a single season for the first time since 1980, and the Orioles won the season series for the first time since 2004.