Orioles begin set with Jays aiming to stretch division lead

( - The Baltimore Orioles will try to further distance themselves atop the AL East standings when they open a three-game series against the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday at Rogers Centre.

The Orioles stand four games clear of the Blue Jays for the AL East lead and will put their 33-23 road record to the test north of the border. The Orioles and Jays have split 10 meetings this season.

Baltimore defeated the Washington Nationals, 7-3, on Monday in a makeup game at Nationals Park. The contest was originally scheduled for July 8, the second contest of a four-game home-and-home series between the Beltway rivals. However, the game was rained out and the Orioles ended up taking two of the three early July meetings.

Caleb Joseph and Nick Markakis both homered and J.J. Hardy finished with four hits and two runs scored for the Orioles, winners in 10 of the last 14 games. Kevin Gausman earned the win for Baltimore and allowed three runs in six innings of work.

"I just had to grind," Gausman said. "My best pitch, my split-change, wasn't really there tonight until the last two innings, but I threw some good ones when I needed to."

The Orioles, who have a 46-7 record when leading after the seventh inning, are 6-2 in their last eight road games and they have an 18-8 mark away from home since May 31.

Bud Norris takes the mound for the O's Tuesday and is 8-7 with a 3.69 ERA. He is 5-2 in his last seven decisions and did not factor in the outcome of a 1-0 loss to the LA Angels last Thursday, tossing seven scoreless innings.

Norris is 2-0 in three starts against the Blue Jays this season and 4-5 in 10 road assignments.

Toronto went 6-4 on its recent road trip and lost the last three games of a four-game set against the Houston Astros. In Sunday's 6-1 loss at Minute Maid Park, Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman lasted only three innings and was reached for five runs and seven hits.

Jose Reyes posted three hits to lead the offense and Ryan Goins drove in the lone run.

"It was a good road trip, it could have been a great one, but we have a welcome day off tomorrow and then we play the team we're chasing," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said afterward.

The Blue Jays are back in friendly grounds and have won three straight and five of six at Rogers Centre. They will also host the Detroit Tigers for three games on this stay and have a 30-23 home record.

Mark Buehrle hasn't won back-to-back starts since June and gets the nod Tuesday. Buehrle was 0-6 with a 4.83 ERA in nine starts before defeating Boston on the road last Wednesday in a 6-1 Toronto victory. He limited the Red Sox to a run in 6 2/3 innings and is 11-7 with a 3.11 ERA.

The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in two starts against Baltimore this season and 8-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 23 career games (21 starts) in this series. Buehrle has made 10 starts at home and is 5-3 to go along with a 3.27 ERA.