The level of competition may have played a role, but the Baltimore Orioles are one of the hottest teams in the majors.
Baltimore looks to continue its strong play Friday when it opens a three-game series against the AL East rival Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards.
Since getting swept in a season-opening three-game series at Minnesota, the Orioles have won eight of 12, including five of their last six. Baltimore followed a three-game sweep of Kansas City by taking two of three at Tampa Bay— both come-from-behind wins—to move one game above .500.
Baltimore’s revamped bullpen was again a key factor in the win, limiting Tampa Bay to one walk over 3 1-3 scoreless innings. Orioles’ relievers allowed one run and six hits through 13 innings in the three-game series and are 3-2 with a 2.87 ERA this season.
“It’s unbelievable,” closer Chris Ray said. “My job is a lot easier when you’ve got all those guys in front of me, going in there and setting the tempo and keeping the momentum on our side.”
Left-hander John Parrish has been particularly good, working 7 2-3 scoreless innings this season. He has struck out 13 of the 26 batters he has faced and recorded eight of his past 10 outs via strikeouts.
The Orioles should have starting center fielder Corey Patterson back in the lineup for this contest. He missed the first two games of the Tampa Bay series while on bereavement leave before appearing as a pinch-runner Wednesday.
Left fielder Jay Payton is expected to make his Orioles debut in this series after missing the first three weeks with a strained left hamstring.
Daniel Cabrera (1-1, 3.66 ERA) faces Toronto for the 12th time Friday, his most appearances against any team. He was dominant against the Blue Jays the last time he opposed them, throwing a five-hitter with two walks and 10 strikeouts in a 15-0 victory on Aug. 19. Cabrera is 4-5 with a 4.16 ERA in 11 starts against the Jays.
After pitching well in his first two starts this season, Cabrera wasn’t as sharp Saturday against Kansas City, allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings. The right-hander has shown dramatic improvement with his control, walking only five batters in 19 2-3 innings after leading the majors with 104 walks in 2006.
Toronto (8-7) squandered a late lead and lost its second straight, 5-3 to visiting Boston on Thursday. Frank Thomas and Alex Rios homered for the Blue Jays, who went 5-5 on a 10-game homestand and now play their next seven games on the road against division opponents.
Rios, who opened this season with an 11-game hitting streak, snapped an 0-for-14 skid with his third home run of the year.
A.J. Burnett (1-1, 7.07) faces the Orioles for the first time in almost six years. He has started slowly this season, yielding four runs or more in two of his three starts.
Burnett did not receive a decision Saturday against Detroit after giving up four runs and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings. The right-hander won his only career start against the Orioles on July 17, 2001, with Florida.
Toronto won 11 of 19 games against Baltimore last season, but lost five of nine at Camden Yards.