The Toronto Blue Jays are all but assured of adding to their lengthy playoff drought but still have a chance to finish with a winning record for the fifth time in six seasons.
With a remaining schedule stocked with contending teams, the chances of achieving that goal don’t seem promising. The lone exception is a handful of matchups against the AL-worst Baltimore Orioles, starting with a three-game series at Camden Yards that begins Tuesday night.
Toronto hasn’t reached the postseason since winning its second World Series title in 1993, and is currently 15 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East and 14 back of New York for the wild card.
The Blue Jays (67-67) did manage to snap a four-game skid and move back to .500 with a 7-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Monday. Adam Lind(notes) hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the third inning and Jose Bautista(notes) added his 38th to tie the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson(notes) for the major league lead.
Toronto will try to keep heading in the right direction against Baltimore (53-79), a team it’s beaten 23 times in 30 games. The Blue Jays, however, won’t have manager John Farrell on their bench for this series as he’s still recovering from a bout of pneumonia.
Bench coach Don Wakamatsu, who managed Seattle last season, will continue to run the team in Farrell’s absence.
The Blue Jays have six games remaining against the Orioles, but will play their other 22 against Boston, the Yankees, the Angels, Tampa Bay and the White Sox. The Rays are the only one of those five clubs that’s not currently first or second in their division, but they are 13 games above .500.
Toronto will give the ball to Brett Cecil(notes) (4-7, 4.42 ERA) in the series opener. The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA in his last four matchups with Baltimore, but has yet to face them this season.
He enters this game 0-3 with a 4.61 ERA in his last four starts, including a 9-6 loss to Kansas City on Thursday in which he gave up five runs and nine hits over 6 1-3 innings.
“Every pitcher makes mistakes. Some hurt and some don’t,” Cecil told the Blue Jays’ official website. “Unfortunately it’s hurt me on my last lot of starts.”
Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie(notes) (6-16, 4.42) didn’t make many mistakes in his last outing, a 6-1 win over Minnesota on Wednesday. The right-hander gave up one run and five hits over seven innings - a significant improvement after posting a 7.32 ERA in his previous three starts.
“For the most part, I was able to do (keep the ball down) and command the fastball enough to keep them off balance and make them miss at a few pitches,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie allowed one hit over five innings June 16 at the Rogers Centre but was forced out of the game with a strained back and did not get a decision in a 4-3 Orioles win. He also gave up six runs over five innings to Toronto during a 7-4 loss at Camden Yards on June 5.
Guthrie is 2-7 in 17 career matchups with the Blue Jays but his 3.62 ERA is his best against an AL East opponent. He’s trying to avoid matching his career high of 17 losses set in 2009.