The battle for top spot in the American League East will take center stage when the Blue Jays and Orioles meet Friday night at Camden Yards. It's the second meeting between the two teams in the last week.
Baltimore enters this pivotal three-game series with a one-game lead over Boston and a two-game lead over Toronto for first place in the American League East. These two teams have seen a lot of each other lately but they won't meet again until the end of July.
Whenever the Orioles and Blue Jays are matched up it usually turns into a high-scoring affair. Toronto outscored Baltimore 30-24 during a recent four-game series and the powerful lineups could once again decide which team comes out on top.
"This is a big series for us," Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said after completing a mini two-game sweep over Philadelphia. "We know where we're at in the standings and we don't see these guys for awhile. With everyone clicking on all cylinders, it's going to be fun.
"We know what type of offense they have. We know what type of offense we're capable of doing. Everyone is feeling good right now, we'll enjoy the bus ride over there and get back to work."
Right-hander Aaron Sanchez will get the call for Toronto while Baltimore will counter with Mike Wright. Sanchez has been enjoying a breakout season in the Blue Jays' rotation but his last outing against Baltimore told a different story.
Sanchez was charged with six runs on 10 hits and three walks over five innings of work. Four of the hits left the ballpark, which was the same number of home runs he surrendered the entire season prior to that outing. Safe to say, he'll be looking to get back on track in Baltimore.
Wright started in Game 3 of the series vs. Toronto and allowed four runs on six hits over five innings. Part of his main problem was an erratic command of the strike zone with five walks compared to just three strikeouts.
Three things to know about this game
• Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has been out since May 1 with a foot fracture but he is expected to return at some point this weekend. "I'll talk to him on the way to the airport and he'll give me a yes or no," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said on Thursday. "It's pretty simple."
• The Blue Jays also might get their starting shortstop back for this series as well. Troy Tulowitzki appeared in his first rehab game for Class A Dunedin on Thursday and while he's not expected to play Friday he might be a possibility for either Saturday or Sunday.
• Baltimore's Manny Machado is still waiting for the date of a hearing in regards to his recent suspension from Major League Baseball for his involvement in the recent fracas between the Orioles and Kansas City. A date for the hearing has not been scheduled yet, which means he should be available for this pivotal three-game series.