Blue Jays welcome the Orioles: Series preview and pitchers

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Jun 5, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) reacts after a line drive by Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (not pictured) is caught by Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (not pictured) to end the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) reacts after a line drive by Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (not pictured) is caught by Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (not pictured) to end the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /
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With a 32-29 record, going 6-4 over their last ten, the Blue Jays are finding a balance

The Toronto Blue Jays return home from Detroit to face the division rival Baltimore Orioles, who sit atop the American League East at 35-23.

Baltimore, alongside the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals, have formed an especially prickly relationship with the Blue Jays over the past couple of seasons. The Orioles have backed it up with their play, though, and present a difficult lineup for Blue Jays pitchers to navigate.

They trail only the Tampa Bay Rays for the most home runs with 87 and have scored the eighth-most runs in baseball at 275 (Toronto is 18th at 255). Their pitching has been more middle-of-the-road, with a 3.91 ERA ranking the Orioles eleventh and a .260 opponent’s batting average putting them 21st.

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Manny Machado is putting himself in the early MVP conversation with a .968 OPS and 15 home runs, though the possibility of a coming suspension could impact his role in this series. Mark Trumbo has been dynamite offensively, too, already producing 20 home runs and 48 RBIs. Adam Jones (.701 OPS, 9 HR) and Chris Davis (.776 OPS, 12 HR) are not enjoying the strongest seasons of their careers, but remain perennial threats.

In the bullpen, Brad Brach and Zach Britton have both been excellent. Brach owns a 0.84 ERA with 37 strikeouts over 32.1 innings pitched, while the closer Britton is 18-for-18 in save opportunities with a 1.07 ERA.

Game 1:  Thursday, June 9th   –   7:07 ET
Marcus Stroman (5-2, 4.82 ERA)
Tyler Wilson (2-5, 4.39 ERA)

Stroman has been on an uncharacteristic streak of late, surrendering six or more runs in three of his last four starts. He’s been finding a lot of bats, and those balls have not been finding gloves behind him, so this could be the start that he begins to chase an extra strikeout or two.

Wilson has remained fairly steady towards his 4.39 ERA, rarely shutting a team down or completely blowing up. His game logs are riddled with one, two, or three-strikeout games, so the Blue Jays could be well served to approach this game aggressively.

Game 2:  Friday, June 10th   –   7:07 ET
Marco Estrada (4-2, 2.41 ERA)
Kevin Gausman (0-3, 3.52 ERA)

Quickly emerging as the Blue Jays most reliable starter, Marco Estrada has won three consecutive starts and has worked eight innings in three of his last four starts. In his past eight starts, he has allowed five hits just once. Weak contact remains the name of the game for the right-hander, so he’ll need to walk a fine line against the Orioles’ power bats.

Gausman has had an up-and-down season, but for the most part, the young righty has been impressive. He has the raw stuff to excel at the major league level, and is coming off an outing where he allowed just one run over six innings. Win-loss luck hasn’t been kind to him, though, as Gausman is still looking for his first victory of 2016.

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Game 3:  Saturday, June 11th   –   1:07 ET
J.A. Happ (6-3, 3.57 ERA)
Mike Wright (3-3, 5.14 ERA)

With a pair of ugly starts against the Tigers and Rays Happ’s numbers have been inflated, but he’s remained very strong in his other outings. He bounced back from the Rays start with 7.1 strong innings his next time out, and will look to follow a similar script here.

Wright offers the Blue Jays a fairly soft matchup in the final game of the series, but is coming off his strongest start of the year. He threw seven shutout innings against the Royals, allowing just five hits and striking out four.

Game 4: Sunday, June 12th   –   1:07 ET
Aaron Sanchez (5-1, 2.91 ERA)
Ubaldo Jimenez (3-6, 6.21 ERA)

Sanchez continues to roll along this season, but it’s been a completely different story for Jimenez. He managed to limit the Royals to one run on nine hits over five innings his last time out, but he’s been hit hard this season and has struggled with his control. He is currently walking 5.1 batters per nine innings.

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