Orioles-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

Another solid outing from Zach Britton, and the Baltimore Orioles could possibly find themselves tied for first place in the AL East.

Looking to win a fourth straight start, Britton tries to lead the surging Orioles to a ninth win in 11 games Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

After taking two of three in Yankee Stadium over the weekend, Baltimore (75-59) continued to roll by snapping a four-game skid at Toronto with a 4-0 win Monday.

"I'm as proud of them (Monday) as I have been all year,'' manager Buck Showalter said. "That's a challenge.''

Winners in 20 of 28 overall, the Orioles are one game behind first-place New York, which continues its series at Tampa this week. Looking for their first postseason berth since 1997, the Orioles also hold a 1 1/2-game lead on the Rays for the AL's second wild-card spot.

Pitching set the tempo Monday with Joe Saunders allowing Toronto's only three hits over 6 1-3 innings. Baltimore starters have posted a 1.89 ERA during a three-game winning streak against the Blue Jays (60-74).

"In the first game of series, you want to set the tone and really give your team a chance to win," Saunders told the Orioles' official website.

Britton (4-1, 4.80 ERA) has allowed three runs and struck out 21 over 21 2-3 innings while winning his last three starts. He gave up a run and set a career high with 10 strikeouts in eight innings of a 5-3 win over Chicago on Thursday.

After that contest, the Orioles optioned Britton to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for veteran Randy Wolf. However, Britton was recalled over the weekend when rosters expanded.

The left-hander improved to 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA against the Blue Jays after he gave up two runs and fanned six in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-4 win Aug. 24.

Toronto scheduled starter Carlos Villanueva (7-4, 3.10) allowed two of Chris Davis' three homers and two other runs over 5 2-3 innings of that loss to Britton.

Villanueva, 2-1 with a 5.32 ERA in four starts versus Baltimore, yielded five hits and struck out seven in six innings of a 2-0 home win over Tampa Bay on Thursday despite pitching with a low-grade fever.

"His changeup is really good and the slider I saw from him came out of his hand like a fastball,'' Tampa Bay outfielder Sam Fuld said. "That's the definition of good off-speed stuff, the stuff that looks like a fastball out of the hand.''

Baltimore's J.J. Hardy, who went 2 for 5 with two RBIs on Monday, is 7 for 12 with three doubles and a home run versus Villanueva. He's hit .391 (9 for 23) with a home run and four RBIs in his last five games against the Blue Jays.

Adam Lind, Kelly Johnson and Adeiny Hechavarria each had a hit Monday for Toronto, which was shut out for the seventh time while losing its third consecutive contest after winning three in a row

Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion went 0 for 3 in the opener but is 2 for 4 with a double against Britton.