The Toronto Blue Jays faced highs and lows during their recent 10-game road trip. They snapped a 17-game losing streak in Yankee Stadium, followed by a sweep at Fenway and concluded with an embarrassing visit to Houston against the third worst team in baseball. The club needed some news that would re-establish momentum, and they got it with the announcement that Brett Lawrie would be back in action at the Rogers Centre.
After being on the disabled list with a broken right index finger since June 22, the Jays’ second and third baseman was activated from the disabled list in time to play a role in an important series against the Baltimore Orioles, who have a four-game lead on the Blue Jays in the AL East. Toronto needs to win this series to tighten-up the race to October and then carry that confidence into the following series at home against the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers.
The club is still without key pieces Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind, but Lawrie’s return boosts morale in more ways than one. Before he missed 36 games, he was hitting .244 with a .299 OBP and a career-high 12 home runs (three of those off of Baltimore pitchers), and he delivered stellar defense wherever he was positioned. Since his injury, the club has been 18-18.
The outcome of the Orioles series is difficult to predict. Since the All-Star break, the Jays have relied on offense to get the job done, and it has worked, whereas the Orioles have depended on solid pitching. Toronto ranks third in the league in runs, but Baltimore’s 2.90 ERA since July 1 has the edge over the Blue Jays’ 4.14 ERA. The Jays and O’s have split their season series so far (5-5) with six of the 10 games decided by three runs or less. So, a hot bat and TV highlight plays from Lawrie will be essential if the Jays want to stay in the hunt for the AL East title and maintain a hold on one of the wild-card spots.
Mark Buehrle is set to face left-hander Bud Norris to open the series. Buehrle shut out Baltimore over seven innings in an April win but has recently shown major signs of struggle on the mound with only one win since June 1.
Game two pits O’s lefty Wei-Yin Chen against Drew Hutchison, whose losses at home have now boiled over to appearances on the road (he lasted only three innings in his last outing; a no-decision in Houston).
The final game in the series will match-up J.A. Happ with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. Happ, who has a 1.96 ERA in his last three outings, has had only one start against Baltimore in 2014, allowing one run in six innings.