Blue Jays-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

The Baltimore Orioles have a decent chance at finishing with the second-highest home run total in franchise history.

Toronto Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle has pitched very well on the road since the Orioles took him deep three times in his last start at Camden Yards.

The Orioles have homered six times in this series and could have some of their regulars back in the lineup in Thursday night's finale.

Baltimore (82-76) was eliminated from playoff contention with a 3-2, 10-inning loss in Tuesday's opener. Manager Buck Showalter rested Adam Jones, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters one night later.

That didn't stop the Orioles from hitting four homers, two by No. 9 hitter Ryan Flaherty, in a 9-5 victory. Baltimore has a major league-best 208 homers - six shy of its total last year when it matched the 1998 and 1985 clubs for the second-highest total behind the 1996 team that went deep 257 times - the third-highest total in baseball history.

Buehrle (12-9, 4.09 ERA) would no doubt like to see a weakened Orioles lineup after he matched a season high by giving up eight runs over six innings in an 8-5 loss at Baltimore on July 12. Jones, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis all took him deep.

The left-hander also lost two starts ago to the Orioles by yielding three runs in five innings in a 3-1 defeat Sept. 15. He then continued his road success Saturday in Boston by limiting the Red Sox to one run in six innings in a 4-2 victory, reaching 200 innings for the 13th straight season.

"Wish it was in a better situation," the first-year Blue Jay said.

Buehrle is 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in six road starts since his last one in Camden Yards.

Davis is 6 for 14 with two homers lifetime off Buehrle, although he hasn't added to his major league-best 52 homers during this series.

Buehrle figures to get his first look at the Orioles' Jonathan Schoop, a 21-year-old prospect who had a successful major league debut Wednesday as he homered and scored three runs.

"My major league debut, it was good,'' he said. "It's the first experience and I'm never going to forget."

The Orioles guaranteed themselves back-to-back winning seasons but that isn't good enough for a team that nearly reached the AL championship series a year ago.

"We didn't make it to the playoffs. That was our goal,'' Hardy said. "I don't know how much we look at it as, 'All right, we got a winning season. Hurrah, hooray.'"

Baltimore will start right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (10-8, 3.94), who is 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA in four September outings as well as four against Toronto this year.

The last-place Blue Jays (72-86), one of the favorites to win the AL East in spring training, need one victory to avoid their first 90-loss campaign since going 67-94 in 2004.

Thursday's winner captures a season series tied at nine victories apiece.