It's starting to get hot under the collar for the Baltimore Orioles and their quest to end a lengthy playoff drought.
Tonight, the Orioles will try for a split in their four-game series versus the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards and haven't been to the postseason since 1997. They have lost two straight and three of four games since a season-best six-game winning streak and dropped a 4-0 decision Tuesday.
Joe Saunders took the mound for Baltimore and lasted 6 1/3 innings in the loss, as he was touched for four runs -- three earned -- and 11 hits. J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters both had two hits for the O's, who still lead the wild card with Oakland in the American League, but the LA Angels are only two games off the pace. Baltimore is 1 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees for the top spot in the AL East. The Yankees lost in Minnesota last night.
"Right now, winning is the only thing that's going to help us," Wieters told the club's website. "We know we're going to need to win some games to be able to get in, so we're just going to keep trying to win as many as we can."
The Orioles will host the Red Sox for three games on their homestand and took two of three matchups in Boston over the weekend.
Rookie Miguel Gonzalez draws the start for Baltimore and is 7-4 with a 3.52 earned run average in 16 games (13 starts). Gonzalez has prevailed in five of his last seven decisions and tossed 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball in a 4-2 win at Boston on Friday.
Gonzalez, a right-hander, is 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA in two games (1 start) against the Blue Jays.
Toronto has nothing to play for besides ruining postseason chances for other teams and will try for a series win this evening.
The Blue Jays have won two in a row since a seven-game slide and used six pitchers to shut out Baltimore in the third portion of the set. Aaron Laffey threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings for the win, while Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Brandon Lyon, Darren Oliver and Casey Janssen kept the O's off the board.
"Everything I had was out there tonight, but it just shows that if you stay aggressive in the zone and throw quality strikes, regardless of what the velocity of the pitch is, you can get big league hitters out," Laffey told the team's website. "I didn't walk anybody tonight and I think that was the biggest difference-maker."
Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes and Adeiny Hechavarria were each credited with an RBI for the Jays.
Toronto will close out the season with a seven-game homestand versus the Yankees and Twins at Rogers Centre.
Carlos Villanueva will handle pitching duties this evening and is 1-6 in his last seven decisions. Villanueva was hammered in a 12-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Friday, as he gave up a season high seven runs and eight hits in only 2 1/3 innings of work. It was the first time this season that he didn't last at least five innings.
Villanueva fell to 7-6 with a 3.88 earned run average in 37 games (15 starts) this season. He lost to Baltimore on Aug. 24 and is 2-2 with a 5.09 ERA in eight career games (5 starts) in this series.
The Orioles are 10-7 against the Blue Jays this season. Baltimore had a six- game home-winning streak against Toronto come to an end Monday night.