Orioles-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

The Baltimore Orioles could use a better effort from Joe Saunders as they try to continue an improbable surge toward the top of the AL East.

The recently-acquired left-hander will try to bounce back from a difficult Baltimore debut Monday when the Orioles open a three-game road set against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Baltimore (74-59) was third in the East and 7 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees as recently as Aug. 3, but has since won 19 of 27 to cut that deficit cut that deficit to two. The Orioles took two of three in the Bronx over the weekend as Mark Reynolds hit four homers, including two in Sunday's 8-3 victory.

The Orioles, seeking their first winning record and postseason appearance since 1997, currently occupy one of the AL's two wild card spots.

"You look at a lot of young guys in here - they don't even know they're in the middle of a playoff race probably," Reynolds said. "Everyone in here's having fun, going out and playing hard."

Saunders (0-1, 10.13 ERA) didn't have much fun in his Baltimore debut Wednesday. The Chicago White Sox tagged the left-hander - acquired from Arizona on Aug. 26 - for seven runs and 10 hits over 5 1-3 innings of an 8-1 loss.

Including the end of his Diamondbacks tenure, Saunders is 0-3 with a 12.00 ERA in his last three starts.

"I put myself in his shoes with the eight days off because of the trade and the travel and what-have-you," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I'll certainly give him that respect of a guy who's had success. He'll contribute here."

Saunders will now face Toronto (60-73) for the first time since 2010. He's 2-4 with a 3.83 ERA in seven career starts versus the Blue Jays.

He'll try to help the Orioles end their recent struggled in Toronto, where they have dropped 33 of their last 40 games including a three-game sweep May 28-30. Baltimore leads the overall season series 7-4, including a two-game sweep at Camden Yards from Aug. 24-25.

In this contest, Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ (3-1, 4.58) will try to win his fourth consecutive decision.

The left-hander is 3-0 with a 3.75 ERA over his last four outings. He gave up four runs and five walks to New York over five innings Wednesday but got five runs of support from his teammates and credit for an 8-5 victory.

The Blue Jays dropped their final two games to Tampa Bay over the weekend at Rogers Centre, allowing all the runs in Sunday's 9-4 defeat over the first four innings. Toronto had won four of five before the two losses to the Rays.

Reynolds is 0 for 6 with three strikeouts against Happ.

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