Adam Jones is on a tear, and that's been the case all year against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Another strong effort may be needed to move the Baltimore Orioles closer to a return to the postseason Tuesday night as their series continues.
Jones has a .444 average with three homers, six RBIs and seven runs in the past six games. The center fielder, who has career highs of 32 homers and 101 runs, has feasted on Toronto pitching in 2012, batting .450 with seven homers in 16 meetings.
"Adam relishes competition," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's obviously had a heck of a year. He's turning into quite a player."
The Orioles (88-66) capitalized on Jones' impressive stretch Monday, when he collected a career high-tying four hits with a home run and two RBIs in a 4-1 win over the Blue Jays (67-86) in the first game of a doubleheader. However, Baltimore settled for a split, losing the nightcap 9-5 while Jones got two more hits.
"Very hard to sweep a doubleheader in the major leagues," Showalter said. "It wasn't from a lack of effort."
Baltimore is atop the league's wild-card standings, holding a 3 1/2-game advantage on third-place Los Angeles with eight remaining in the regular season - one fewer than the Angels.
The Orioles, bidding to reach the postseason for the first time since 1997, are 1 1/2 games back of AL East-leading New York, which also has nine to play.
Joe Saunders (2-2, 3.48) is looking to build on his best performance since being acquired in a trade from Arizona last month.
Saunders was terrific in a pitching duel against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez on Wednesday. They both yielded one run in eight innings before Jones connected for a two-run homer in the top of the 11th of a 3-1 victory.
"Anytime you go from a team to a team that's really contending hard you kind of got to, in my mind, really kick it into another gear," Saunders told the team's official website. "And that's what I've tried to do, is really help the team do their thing and be a positive rather than a negative."
Saunders certainly did that at Toronto in his second start with the Orioles on Sept. 3. He allowed three hits in 6 1-3 innings of that 4-0 victory.
He's won two of his last three starts against the Blue Jays behind a 1.31 ERA.
Toronto ended a seven-game slide in the nightcap Monday, and is scheduled to give the ball to Aaron Laffey (3-6, 4.80). The left-hander is 0-4 with a 5.45 ERA while issuing 23 walks in 34 2-3 innings over his last eight games - six starts.
He matched his career high with five walks Thursday, surrendering five runs - four earned - and getting pulled with no outs in the fourth of a 10-7 defeat at New York.
Laffey gets his first start against the Orioles since Aug. 27, 2009, when he allowed three runs in 5 2-3 innings while not getting a decision in a road win for Cleveland.
He's tossed five scoreless innings over six relief outings since, winning the only decision in that stretch.