MLB

Blue Jays-Orioles preview

BALTIMORE--The Toronto Blue Jays come to Baltimore on Friday for the start of a three-game weekend series with the Orioles that will have an impact on the top of the American League East.

Toronto (38-31) has gotten hot lately, taking three of four from Baltimore in Canada last weekend. The Jays followed that by winning three of four from the Phillies while Baltimore (38-27) rebounded to win two of three in Boston (37-28).

The Orioles lead Boston by one game with the Blue Jays having pulled to within two. Baltimore and the Jays are two of best offensive teams in the American League. Toronto scored 31 runs in its three wins over the Phillies while the Orioles lead the AL in homers with 103 in 65 games.

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Adam Jones hit a two-run homer for Baltimore in its 5-1 victory over Boston on Thursday. Jones drove in three runs overall as the Orioles took the division lead with that win.

The Jays have shown plenty of their own power recently as they banged out five homers in Thursday's 13-2 rout of the Phillies. Edwin Encarnacion hit his 18th homer of the season -- the 15th's he's hit since May 1, which leads the major leagues, according to MLB.com. Kevin Pillar hit two of his own.

"Eddie's locked in pretty good," Toronto manager John Gibbons told MLB.com. "If you give him something to hit, he's going to hit it."

Aaron Sanchez (6-1, 3.38) starts for Toronto. He gave up six runs on 10 hits in his last start Sunday against Baltimore, but got the victory as Toronto pulled out a 10-9 decision.

Mike Wright (3-3, 5.31) takes the ball for the Orioles. He gave up four runs on six hits and got a no-decision in Saturday's loss to the Blue Jays.

Baltimore's inconsistent starting pitching has been challenged by the strong Blue Jays' lineup the past few seasons, and that could happen again this weekend. But the team's strong bullpen could pick up the shaky starters.

However, the Orioles still probably won't be having set-up man Darren O'Day back in the bullpen yet. He's been on the disabled list (hamstring strain) since June 3 and could be eligible to come off this weekend, but MLB.com reported Thursday that the right-hander isn't quite sure yet when he'll return to the mound.

O'Day said he wants to be careful and return when the leg is ready.

"I'm antsy to get back, get going, but it's just a matter of doing it once and doing it right instead of re-injuring it," he told MLB.com.

In other off-the-field news, The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday that shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado is going to meet with league officials Tuesday in an appeal of the four-game suspension he was given after last week's brawl with the Royals.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy (fractured foot) is getting closer to returning. He did some rehab work at Double-A Bowie this week and might do some more at Class A Frederick. But he's coming closer, and MLB.com said Hardy might be back in the Baltimore lineup this weekend.

Jose Bautista of the Jays left Thursday's game with what MLB.com reported as "left toe soreness" after trying to make a catch at the wall in Philadelphia. He left in the seventh inning and had an X-ray afterward.

The site also reported that Troy Tulowitzki started a rehab assignment at Class A Dunedin on Thursday. He's been out with a sore right quad.