O's: Northern exposure
The Orioles again find themselves in a difficult spot as they open a three-game series in Toronto tonight at Rogers Centre. They let some opportunities slip through their fingers over the weekend to fall three games under .500, and the distance between last place and first place in the American League East is widening quickly.
Tonight's game will be a particular challenge for the sporatic Orioles offense. They'll face a pitcher in Carlos Villanueva who has worked his way into the Jays rotation and is 3-0 in his four starts, including a very solid 5 1/3 innings against the Orioles at Camden Yards on June 3. He is stretched out now, so he could be around a lot longer than that it the O's don't force him to work.
Orioles starter Chris Jakubauskas is coming off a strong performance in his first Orioles start, giving up just three hits over five innings against a soft Oakland A's lineup. He'll need to be better than that against the Jays, who rank third in the American League in runs scored and tied for second in home runs.
The ensuing matchups appear a bit more favorable, with Jake Arrieta going for his ninth victory against Ricky Romera -- who allowed 14 baserunners against the O's on June 4 -- and Jeremy Guthrie facing Jo-Jo Reyes (2-5), but I think the Orioles will be very fortunate to get back across the border with more than one victory.
The best news for the pitching staff is the return of first baseman Derrek Lee from the bereavement list. He has not been the major offensive force the Orioles had hoped for when they signed him, but his defensive acumen has been a major positive for the club so far.