Kelvim Escobar isn’t going back to the bullpen anytime soon.
Escobar began the season as Toronto’s closer, going 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA and just four saves in 15 appearances. However, since taking the rotation spot of demoted Tanyon Sturtze on May 15, the 27-year-old right-hander is 4-2 with a 2.14 ERA in seven starts.
He’s been exceptional of late, going 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA over his last three starts. Escobar handled the Orioles on Thursday, allowing an earned run and four hits with six strikeouts over six innings in a 6-1 victory.
The native of Venezuela is 8-1 with a 3.53 ERA and nine saves in 25 games, including nine starts, against the Orioles. His eight wins and nine saves are his most against any opponent.
“That’s the way it is sometimes,” Escobar said. “Baltimore is just a team I’ve always been able to pitch good against.”
With Monday’s 13-4 victory, the Blue Jays have won 11 of 13 and now trail the first-place New York Yankees by one game in the AL East.
Shannon Stewart hit a solo homer and finished 3-for-6 in his return from the disabled list. He had missed 20 games with a sore right hamstring.
Carlos Delgado increased his major league-leading RBI total to 80, and Vernon Wells stretched his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games as the Blue Jays beat the Orioles for the eighth straight time dating to last year.
The Orioles lost for the fifth time in their last six overall.
The Orioles were without Melvin Mora, the AL’s leading hitter, for the third straight game since he was hit by a pitch on his right hand Friday. Manager Mike Hargrove said he might return on Tuesday.
STANDINGS: Orioles - 4th place, 10 1/2 GB, AL East. Blue Jays - 2nd place, 1 GB, AL East.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Rick Helling (4-5, 5.81 ERA). Helling took the loss against Escobar and Toronto on Thursday, giving up four earned runs and six hits over five innings. The right-hander had won his previous two decisions, allowing an earned run over 12 innings. He dropped to 5-3 against the Blue Jays with a 3.40 ERA in 12 career starts.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Escobar (5-3, 3.79 ERA). Primarily a starter in 1999 and 2000, Escobar has yet to allow a homer in any of his starts this season, spanning 42 innings.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Orioles - Mora, .361 avg. and 44 runs; Jay Gibbons, 13 HRs and 52 RBIs; Jerry Hairston Jr., 14 SBs. Blue Jays - Delgado, .311 avg., 22 HRs, 80 RBIs and 63 runs; Orlando Hudson, 4 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Blue Jays, 3-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Orioles - Thirty-one of the 53 runs allowed by RHP Helling this season have come on home runs. … Baltimore has been outscored 25-7 by Toronto this season. … Baltimore has struck out 394 times this season, second fewest in the majors behind Anaheim (380). Blue Jays - The Blue Jays are 12 games above .500 for the first time since Aug. 13, 1999. … 1B Delgado is now tied for the club record for most RBIs before the All-Star break. Joe Carter had 80 in 1994, and Delgado had 80 in 2000. The Blue Jays have 19 games remaining before this season’s All-Star break. … DH Josh Phelps leads the AL with 69 strikeouts.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Orioles - 16-21 on the road; Blue Jays - 20-15 at home.
INJURIES: Orioles - OF Mora (hand), day-to-day; INF Hairston (leg), 15-day DL; OF Larry Bigbie (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL. Blue Jays - INF Eric Hinske (hand), 15-day DL; RHP Pete Walker (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Doug Creek (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Bob File (shoulder), 60-day DL