Blue Jays-Orioles Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- While the Baltimore Orioles haven't posted a winning record against the Toronto Blue Jays over any of the previous seven seasons, they could be well on their way to ending that trend.
The Orioles try for a fourth victory in five meetings with the Blue Jays as the teams continue a three-game set Wednesday night at Camden Yards.
Since taking 11 of 19 from Toronto (10-7) in 2004, Baltimore entered this year a combined 49-79 in the series - including a 6-12 record in 2011.
The Orioles (10-7), however, have surprisingly had the Blue Jays number thus far. After taking two of three at Rogers Centre from April 13-15, Baltimore picked up right where it left off during Tuesday's 2-1 victory.
Matt Wieters put his team up for good with a fourth-inning homer - his team-best sixth, and Tommy Hunter threw six innings of one-run ball before handing it over to what's emerging to be one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Orioles relievers rank top five in the majors with a 2.14 ERA and have surrendered just two earned runs over an eight-game stretch spanning 25 2-3 innings.
"Those guys came in and it was quick and it was effective and they got the job done," Hunter said. "Tip your cap to those guys. They've been good all year and hopefully they continue to do it."
Acquired via trade from Colorado during the offseason, Jason Hammel (2-0, 2.37 ERA) has certainly been a welcome addition to the Orioles' rotation. The right-hander was terrific during Thursday's 5-3 road win over the Chicago White Sox, surrendering two runs, six hits and striking out a career high-tying 10 over six frames.
"The first two innings I threw way too many pitches - first three, I guess - but way too many pitches early," he told MLB.com. "I've got to do a better job to get deep in the ballgame. Six innings is OK, but I want seven, eight innings."
Hammel, who gave up a pair of runs over five innings but didn't factor in the decision of a 6-4 win at Toronto on April 14, has gone 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA over six career starts against the Blue Jays.
Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion are a combined 3 for 17 off Hammel. Kelly Johnson, meanwhile, is 6 for 17 with a homer.
Hammel will be opposed by Kyle Drabek (2-0, 2.00), who after winning his first two home starts, proved a bit shaky during Friday's 4-3 victory at Kansas City. The 24-year-old right-hander didn't receive a decision after allowing two runs, four hits and issuing a career worst-tying six walks over 5 1-3 frames.
"He battled his command, overall, but never gave in," manager John Farrell said of Drabek, who surrendered 52 free passes over 14 starts spanning 72 2-3 innings last season.
Drabek, in contrast, hit his spots during the Blue Jays' only win against Baltimore this season, giving up two runs - one earned - and six hits over a career-best 7 1-3 innings of a 9-2 victory April 15.
It's unknown if Drabek will have to worry about facing Nolan Reimold, who's missed the last three games due to neck spasms. Reimold is batting .405 with five homers - two of which have come against Toronto - during a 10-game hitting streak.
Orioles closer Jim Johnson's availability is also in question after sitting out Tuesday with the flu.
Updated April 24, 2012