Adam Jones is on a tear, and that's been the case all year against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Another strong effort may be needed to move the Baltimore Orioles closer to a return to the postseason Tuesday night as their series continues.
Jones has a .444 average with three homers, six RBIs and seven runs in the past six games. The center fielder, who has career highs of 32 homers and 101 runs, has feasted on Toronto pitching in 2012, batting .450 with seven homers in 16 meetings.
"Adam relishes competition," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's obviously had a heck of a year. He's turning into quite a player."
The Orioles (88-66) capitalized on Jones' impressive stretch Monday, when he collected a career high-tying four hits with a home run and two RBIs in a 4-1 win over the Blue Jays (67-86) in the first game of a doubleheader. However, Baltimore settled for a split, losing the nightcap 9-5 while Jones got two more hits.
"Very hard to sweep a doubleheader in the major leagues," Showalter said. "It wasn't from a lack of effort."
Baltimore is atop the league's wild-card standings, holding a 3 1/2-game advantage on third-place Los Angeles with eight remaining in the regular season - one fewer than the Angels.
The Orioles, bidding to reach the postseason for the first time since 1997, are 1 1/2 games back of AL East-leading New York, which also has nine to play.
Joe Saunders (2-2, 3.48) is looking to build on his best performance since being acquired in a trade from Arizona last month.
Saunders was terrific in a pitching duel against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez on Wednesday. They both yielded one run in eight innings before Jones connected for a two-run homer in the top of the 11th of a 3-1 victory.
"Anytime you go from a team to a team that's really contending hard you kind of got to, in my mind, really kick it into another gear," Saunders told the team's official website. "And that's what I've tried to do, is really help the team do their thing and be a positive rather than a negative."
Saunders certainly did that at Toronto in his second start with the Orioles on Sept. 3. He allowed three hits in 6 1-3 innings of that 4-0 victory.
He's won two of his last three starts against the Blue Jays behind a 1.31 ERA.
Toronto ended a seven-game slide in the nightcap Monday, and is scheduled to give the ball to Aaron Laffey (3-6, 4.80). The left-hander is 0-4 with a 5.45 ERA while issuing 23 walks in 34 2-3 innings over his last eight games - six starts.
He matched his career high with five walks Thursday, surrendering five runs - four earned - and getting pulled with no outs in the fourth of a 10-7 defeat at New York.
Laffey gets his first start against the Orioles since Aug. 27, 2009, when he allowed three runs in 5 2-3 innings while not getting a decision in a road win for Cleveland.
He's tossed five scoreless innings over six relief outings since, winning the only decision in that stretch.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|September 16, 2012||Edwin Encarnacion||Day-to-Day||Sore right big toe|
|September 04, 2012||J.A. Happ||60-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) -- The Baltimore Orioles insist they're not watching the scoreboard. They say they're concentrating on the last-place Toronto Blue Jays.
They will need to concentrate harder.
On Tuesday night, the Orioles lost for the second straight game, 4-0 to the Blue Jays.
Baltimore remained 1 1-2 games behind first-place New York in the AL East. The Yankees lost 5-4 at Minnesota.
After Boston's loss, Adam Jones said it was vital to ignore the Yankees.
"Trying to get more runs on our scoreboard," Jones said.
For the first time since Aug. 3, Baltimore was shut out as Aaron Laffey and five relievers combined on a six-hitter.
Laffey (4-6) allowed five singles in 5 2-3 innings and won his first game since Aug. 5. He had been winless in his previous six starts. He neither walked nor struck out a batter.
"Honestly, he's running on fumes. His stuff is not as sharp and crisp, but you can't take anything away from what he did tonight. He's gone out there on really some guile tonight," Toronto manager John Farrell said.
Relievers Steve Delabar , Brett Cecil , Brandon Lyon , Darren Oliver and Casey Janssen combined to allow one hit - Chris Davis ' seventh-inning double - in 3 1-3 innings.
The Orioles loaded the bases in the ninth on an error and two walks, but Ryan Flaherty flied out on the first pitch of his at-bat to end the game.
"He's the tying run there," manager Buck Showalter said. "He just missed that ball, hitting it out of the ballpark."
On Monday, Baltimore and Toronto split a doubleheader, with the Blue Jays winning the second game 9-5. The Orioles had just four runners in scoring position.
Baltimore leads the season series 10-7 with one game remaining on Wednesday.
"You're always going to get everyone's best shot and when we had been struggling and we'd go into certain venues where there's a good emotion in the ballpark, it feeds the other team as well as us," Showalter said.
The Orioles had won seven of their previous nine.
"We got to get some wins. That's what we've been doing since the first day of spring training. Now, we're just in a position where each game matters. It's a cool position to be in," Jones said.
Joe Saunders (2-3) pitched 6 1-3 innings, allowing four runs - three earned - and 11 hits. He struck out two and walked none.
"I didn't feel I had my best stuff, but I feel like I kept my team in the game as best I could. I think we've played like 100 innings the last five days, so bullpen's pretty burnt up, so I had to go as deep as I could," Saunders said.
The Orioles played an 18-inning game in Seattle a week ago, another 11 innings against the Mariners the next night, and 12 innings in Boston last Saturday.
"I think we're fine. I think we might be a little bit tired, but we just have to push through, especially at this time of the year, dig down deep and find whatever you have and compete the best you can. That's about it," Saunders said.
In the first inning, the Blue Jays took a 1-0 lead on Yan Gomes ' RBI single that scored Brett Lawrie , who led off with a single.
Rajai Davis beat out an infield single with two outs in the fourth and scored on Adeiny Hechavarria 's double.
In the seventh, Colby Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion had consecutive RBI singles to give Toronto a 4-0 lead.
"They came up with clutch hits, not really hard hits, but just kind of dinked it in there," Saunders said.
Dylan Bundy made his second appearance for Baltimore. The 19-year-old pitched a scoreless ninth, but allowed his first hit.
NOTES: Orioles LHP Randy Wolf , who's suffering from discomfort in his pitching elbow, will consult with orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum before settling on his next step. Yocum performed Tommy John surgery on Wolf's left elbow in 2005. ... Baltimore RHP Jason Hammel , who's been out with a bad right knee, threw about 35 pitches off the mound. He hasn't pitched since leaving a game on Sept. 11. ... Orioles OF Lew Ford is out with a groin injury. ... Bundy and OF L.J. Hoes were given awards for outstanding pitcher and hitter in the Orioles' minor league system. Hoes made his major league debut as a pinch-runner in the ninth. ... Davis was credited with a first-inning single when his batted ball hit Gomes, who was ruled out. ... Baltimore RHP Miguel Gonzalez (7-4, 3.52) faces Toronto RHP Carlos Villanueva (7-6, 3.88) on Wednesday.