Escobar began the season in the bullpen, making 15 relief appearances in which he went 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA and just four saves. Since taking the rotation spot of the demoted Tanyon Sturtze on May 15, the 27-year-old right-hander is 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA in six starts.
“He’s given us a real good boost,” Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca said. “We weren’t getting him many save opportunities. We needed a starter, he accepted to do it, and wanted to do it. It’s been good so far.”
Escobar is 2-0 with an 0.53 ERA in his last two starts. He pitched a four-hitter in winning 5-0 at Cincinnati on June 8, then defeated the visiting Chicago Cubs 5-1 last Friday as he gave 12 hits and struck out a season-high 10.
“They say when you turn 27, 28 or 29 that’s the time when you start doing pretty good. I guess I got all my stuff together,” said Escobar, primarily a starter in 1999 and 2000. “I’m focused, I’m trusting my stuff and I’m not trying to do too much.”
The opener of this series was postponed Tuesday due to rain, but the Blue Jays came through with a 6-2 victory Wednesday for their seventh win in eight games.
Toronto’s Mike Bordick drove in two runs against his former team, and Vernon Wells added an RBI, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. Wells is batting .364 (16-for-44) during the run with two homers and seven RBIs.
Carlos Delgado, who leads the majors with 76 RBIs, was 1-for-2 with three walks. The All-Star first baseman has four homers and seven RBIs in his last 10 games.
The Orioles, who won three of four before Wednesday, got a two-run homer from Jay Gibbons, who has hits in each of his last nine games. He is batting .529 (18-for-34) over that span with four homers, four doubles and 14 RBIs.
STANDINGS: Blue Jays - 3rd place, 2 GB, AL East. Orioles - 4th place, 8 1/2 GB, AL East.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Escobar (4-3, 4.05 ERA). Escobar is 7-1 with a 3.70 ERA with nine saves in 24 games, including eight starts, against the Orioles. At Camden Yards, he is 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Rick Helling (4-4, 5.72 ERA). Helling is 2-0 in his last five starts despite a 6.12 ERA. The right-hander pitched five scoreless innings on June 12, limiting the Cubs to four hits in a 6-1 home victory. He is 5-2 with 3.16 ERA in 11 career starts against Toronto.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Blue Jays - Frank Catalanotto, .318 avg.; Delgado, 22 HRs, 76 RBIs and 62 runs; Orlando Hudson, 4 SBs. Orioles - Melvin Mora, .358 avg. and 44 runs; Gibbons, 13 HRs and 52 RBIs; Jerry Hairston Jr., 14 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Blue Jays, 1-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Blue Jays - RF Reed Johnson, playing in place of the injured Shannon Stewart, has four homers and seven RBIs in his last eight games. … 3B Bordick played with the Orioles from 1997-2002 before signing with Toronto as a free agent in December. … RHP Aquilino Lopez has thrown 18 straight scoreless innings over his last 13 appearances. Orioles - Since having his 23-game hitting streak snapped Friday, OF Mora has gone 1-for-12 without an RBI. The AL batting leader was 1-for-4 with three strikeouts Wednesday. … RF Gibbons is 1-for-8 (.125) against RHP Escobar, but that lone hit was a solo homer. … SS Deivi Cruz is batting .444 (8-for-18) during a five-game hitting streak.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jays - 21-16 on the road; Orioles - 17-18 at home.
INJURIES: Blue Jays - 3B Eric Hinske (hand), 15-day DL; OF Stewart (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Pete Walker (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Doug Creek (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Bob File (shoulder), 60-day DL. Orioles - 2B Hairston Jr. (leg), 15-day DL; OF Larry Bigbie (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL.