Each struggling club will look to keep pace at the expense of the other heading into a three-game set that begins Tuesday in Toronto.
This season, however, they also are looking up at the major league-best Tampa Bay Rays, who have finished last in the East in nine of their 10 seasons.
Right now, it’s Toronto (42-47) holding down the cellar as the only sub-.500 team in perhaps baseball’s strongest division. While the Blue Jays continue to deal with season-long offensive problems, their typically strong pitching has faltered in recent games as they have lost four of five.
After losing 7-1 to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, Toronto - which is fourth in the majors with a 3.63 team ERA - has given up 31 runs in its last five games. The Blue Jays are 10-19 in their last 29 games, and 9-14 this season against AL East opponents.
The Blue Jays’ next 13 games are against division rivals, including three at home against the Yankees this weekend.
“We still have to play the teams that are ahead of us in our division,” center fielder Vernon Wells told his team’s official Web site. “We’ll take it one game and one team at a time. We’ll worry about who’s in front of us right now, and that’s Baltimore.”
The Orioles have exceeded expectations after trading away ace Erik Bedard and shortstop Miguel Tejada in the offseason, but they’re coming off a 3-4 homestand after dropping the final two games to Texas and still face a double-digit deficit in games behind Tampa Bay.
They nearly erased a six-run, eighth-inning deficit Sunday, but lost 11-10 to the Rangers. They’re now hoping to avoid falling to .500 for the first time since they were 34-34 on June 15.
The Orioles haven’t lost three straight in more than a month since losing four in a row to New York and Boston from May 28-June 1. They visit the Red Sox this weekend.
“I don’t want everything that’s accomplished here, people to be happy and settled and feel good about all that stuff because there’s so much more to the season yet that I don’t think you can rest or live on what you’ve done,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley told his team’s official Web site.
Orioles right-hander Daniel Cabrera (6-4, 4.34 ERA) will take the mound coming off his first victory in more than a month. He pitched a complete game Wednesday against Kansas City, allowing seven hits in the Orioles’ 5-2 victory.
Cabrera had been 0-3 with a 6.21 ERA in his previous seven starts. He hasn’t faced Toronto this year, but he’s 4-7 with a 4.39 ERA against the Blue Jays in 14 career starts.
Toronto’s Dustin McGowan (6-7, 4.36) has been even worse against the Orioles, going 0-3 with a 6.84 ERA in seven outings - four starts. McGowan has dropped three of his last four starts overall, allowing four runs in each outing.
The Orioles took two of three at Rogers Centre from June 6-8 after splitting a two-game set with the Blue Jays at home in April.