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MLB Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (69-56) at Baltimore Orioles (77-47)

TORONTO BLUE JAYS NOTES:

THE LATEST: The Blue Jays used a season-high-tying five home runs to power their way to a 10-3 win in Cincinnati on Sunday…Improved to 10-4 in rubber games and moved to 12-8-1 in road series (23-15-2 overall)…Are now 26-14 in Interleague Play this season for an MLB-best .650 win% (2nd: LAD – .618). Toronto has won 15 of its last 26 games and is 24-16 across its last 40…The .600 win% over that span (since July 4) is 3rd best in the AL (5th in MLB)… Enters today 1.0 game back of Seattle (70-55) for the 3rd AL Wild Card spot.

BRANDON’S BELTS: Brandon Belt connected for a two-run homer to right in the 2nd inning on Sunday and followed that up with a solo shot to left in the 4th inning…Marked his 2nd multi-HR game as a Blue Jay (also July 2 vs. BOS) and the 10th of his career. The 35-year-old has reached base safely in each of his last 15 starts while going 17-for-54 (.315) with 14 runs, four doubles, five home runs, eight RBI, and 12 walks (.439 OBP, 1.106 OPS)…His 4.44 pitches/PA this season tops all MLB batters (min. 300 PA)…His 1.137 OPS for the month of August is 3rd best in the AL (4th in MLB) while his .444 OBP is tied for 3rd and his .692 SLG ranks 6th.

BO BOMBS ARE BACK: Bo Bichette led off the 4th inning with his 18th home run of the season, tying him with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the team lead…Also recorded his 2nd triple of the season to finish 2-for-5…Has gone 3-for-10 with two extra-base hits and two RBI in his two games since coming off the injured list…Extended his hitting streak to eight games while going 17-for-36 (.472) with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, and seven RBI. The shortstop now has 147 hits to top all AL batters (2nd: Marcus Semien – 144), despite missing 16 games with a knee injury…Is 2nd among AL batters with a .320 AVG while tied for 2nd with 43 multi-hit games…Is also 6th in the AL OPS (.852), 8th in SLG (.501), and 9th in total bases (230).

SPRING-ER LOADED: George Springer cranked Toronto’s 3rd home run of the 4th inning on Sunday…The two-run blast was his 15th of the season…Has hits in 11 of his last 13 games while going 19-for-51 (.373) with five doubles, two home runs and eight RBI (1.009 OPS).

KEVIN CRANKS: Kevin Kiermaier connected for his 6th home run of the campaign on Sunday, a two-run blast to right field… Was his 1st hit since coming back from the injured list…Over his last 27 games, has batted .282 (20-for71) with two doubles, two home runs, and 11 RBI (.728 OPS).

RYU KNOW IT: Hyun Jin Ryu tossed 5.0 frames on Sunday, allowing two unearned runs on four hits and a walk while striking out seven batters…Has not allowed an earned run in any of his last three starts while going 2-0 with six hits, four walks, and 12 K’s…Now owns a 1.89 ERA (4 ER/19.0 IP) and a 1.05 WHIP in four starts since returning from Tommy John surgery.

ROAD WORK: The Blue Jays are on a six-game, seven-day road trip (2-1 so far)…Own a 37-29 road record this season for a .561 win%, 4th best in the AL (5th in MLB), and currently 2nd best in team history (.580 in 1993)… Have gone 17-7 over their last 24 road games for a .708 win%, trailing only the Mariners (.710) for the best road record in MLB since June 20…After this threeg-ame series in Baltimore, will return to Toronto for a six-game homestand against Cleveland (59-66) and Washington (57-68). Blue Jays hitters are 2nd in the AL with a .264 road batting average, 2nd in road OBP (.331), 2nd in road OPS (.761) and 5th in road SLG (.430)…The pitching staff ranks 2nd in the AL in road ERA (3.87), 9th in road opponents’ AVG (.249), and 9th in road WHIP (1.28).

THE VAR-SHOW CONTINUES: Daulton Varsho doubled and walked twice on Sunday to finish 1-for-3 with a run scored…Was his 5th extra-base hit in his last seven games…Over his last 15 contests, has hit .311 (14-for-45) with three doubles, a triple, three home runs, and 11 RBI (1.014 OPS).

A FIRST FOR FRANCIS: Bowden Francis finished Sunday’s game off with 3.0 innings of one-run ball to earn his 1st career save… Holds a 2.03 ERA (6 ER/26.2 IP) and a .181 AVG in his 13 games up with the Blue Jays this season.

PITCHING IN: Toronto pitchers have combined for an MLB-best 3.65 ERA this season (2nd: SEA – 3.69)…Are 3rd in MLB with 1,172 strikeouts (MIN – 1,193; MIA – 1,184)… Rank 5th in the AL in both opponents’ batting average (.238) and WHIP (1.24)…The rotation has recorded 57 quality starts, tied for 3rd most in MLB…Toronto is the only remaining team to have not allowed 500 runs this season.

HITTING IT: Toronto batters have notched 1,109 hits this season, 3rd most in the AL…Are also 3rd in the AL in team OBP (.329), 4th in AVG (.258), 6th in OPS (.745), and 8th in SLG (.415).

DIVISIONAL DETAILS: The Blue Jays have gone 11-23 against divisional opponents this season, the 3rd fewest intra-division wins in MLB (OAK – 6, COL – 8)…The .324 divisional win% is currently the 3rd-lowest in team history.

VS. THE ORIOLES: All-Time: 386-329
2023: 2-8 Road: 172-182
Road: 1-2 Camden Yards: 133-124

The Blue Jays have gone 2-8 through 10 games vs. the Orioles this season…Dropped two of the three contests at Camden Yards during their last visit in June…Have gone 22-12 in Baltimore since the start of the 2019 season.

Bo Bichette has gone 10-for-28 (.357) with two doubles and two RBI in his seven games played vs. Baltimore this season…In 53 career meetings, has batted .330 (72-for-218) with 14 doubles, 10 home runs, and 36 RBI (.903 OPS)…Is also hitting .374 (43-for-115) across 27 games at Camden Yards, including seven doubles, nine homers, and 28 RBI (1.084 OPS)…The .374 AVG at the venue is 3rd highest among active players (min. 100AB), behind Jose Altuve (.416) and Joey Wendle (.381).

Danny Jansen has connected for four home runs in his nine games vs. the O’s this year while hitting .259 (7-for-27) with seven RBI…Is a lifetime 40-for-162 (.247) with 10 doubles, a triple, 11 homers, and 31 RBI over 51 games vs. BAL (.856 OPS).

STARTING PITCHER – Yusei Kikuchi, LHP #16
TODAY’S GAME:
Making his 25th start of the season and his 14th on the road…Took a no-decision his last time out, on 8/15 vs. PHI, tossing 6.0 frames of one-run ball (4H, 0BB, 7K)…Has pitched into the 5th inning in all 24 starts this year, the only Blue Jay starter to do so. Has allowed one run or fewer in each of his last 6 starts, tied for the longest streak in team history (Dave Stieb: 6G from 9/13/88-4/10/89; Hyun Jin Ryu: 6G from 8/5-9/2/20), and in 8 of his last 10…Since the All-Star break, his 1.29 ERA leads all Major Leaguers (min. 25.0IP). Has not allowed a home run in any of his last 6 starts, matching his career-best streak set as a Mariner from 9/19/19-8/20/20.

2023 HIGHLIGHTS: Took the hard-luck loss on 8/8 at CLE, matching a season best with 7.0 innings of one-run ball (3H, BB, 6K). Improved to 9-3 on 8/2 vs. BAL, twirling 6.0 innings of one-run ball (6H, BB, 3K)…Marked his 7th quality start of the season. Picked up his career-best 8th win of the year on 7/26 at LAD, tossing 6.0 frames of one-run ball with 7 hits, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts. Took a no-decision on 7/21 at SEA, tossing 5.1 shutout frames with 5 hits, a walk, and 8 strikeouts…Marked his 4th scoreless outing of the season. Faced one batter over the minimum on 6/20 at MIA, tossing 6.0 shutout innings with 2 hits, no walks, and 6 strikeouts on 87 pitches (57 strikes)… Marked his 3rd scoreless start of the season. Took a no-decision on 6/4 at NYM, giving up 2 runs over 5.0 innings with 4 hits, a walk, and 8 strikeouts…Induced a season-high 19 swing-and-misses. Improved to 6-2 on 5/30 vs. MIL, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and a season-high 5 walks over 5.0 frames with 4 strikeouts…Punched out Joey Wiemer in the 4th inning for the 500th strikeout of his career…Became the 9th Japanese-born player to record 500 strikeouts and 500.0 innings pitched in the Majors. Shouldered the loss on 5/24 at TB, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks over 5.0 frames with 5 strikeouts…The outing was his 100th career start, becoming the 11th Japanese-born player to reach the century mark. Improved to 2-0 on 4/15 vs. TB, throwing 6.0 innings of one-run ball with 4 hits, a walk, and a season-high 9 strikeouts…Marked his most punchouts in a single game as a Blue Jay…Completed 6.0 frames for the 1st time since 6/30/22 vs. TB.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Made his MLB debut on 3/21/19 for Seattle against Oakland at the Tokyo Dome in Japan…Became the 1st Japanese-born player to make his Major League debut in Japan, picking up a no-decision (4.2 IP, 4H, ER, BB, 3K). Recorded his 1st career complete game shutout on 8/18/19 at TOR, pitching 9.0 scoreless innings and allowing only two hits and a walk with eight strikeouts…Became just the 13th pitcher (17th time) in club history to throw a complete game shutout within his first 30 career appearances (previous: Mike Montgomery on 6/30/15 at SD). Named to the American League All-Star Team for the 1st time on 7/4/21…Was on the AL club but did not pitch…Became the 14th Japanese-born player to be selected to participate in the Midsummer Classic. Had a career-high 12 strikeouts in 6.0 IP on 7/23/21 vs. OAK…Was his 3rd double-digit strikeout game of the year and the 4th of his career. Spent 8 seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball league with the Saitama Seibu Lions, earning himself three NPB All-Star nods while fashioning a 73-46 record and a 2.77 ERA.

VS. THE ORIOLES: Facing the Orioles for the 4th time this season and the 12th time in his career (9th start)…Has allowed 6 runs over 15.1 innings in 3 starts vs. BAL this year (3.52 ERA), giving up no more than 3 runs on any occasion…Has pitched into the 5th inning in 6 of his 8 career starts against the O’s.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES NOTES:

SWEEP DREAMS: The Orioles beat the Athletics Sunday, 12-1, to complete the threegame sweep…Marked Baltimore’s eighth sweep of the season, first since August 4-6 vs. New York-NL (3-0), and first on the road since July 7-9 at Minnesota (3-0)…The O’s scored double-digit runs for the 12th time this season, and have gone a perfect 12-0 in those games; the 12 games with at least 10 runs are Baltimore’s most since 15 such games in 2017.  Jorge Mateo hit an inside-the-park home run, the 25th inside-the-parker in O’s history (since 1954) and first since Trey Mancini did so on July 28, 2022 vs. Tampa Bay; marked his first homer since April 30 at Detroit.

Kyle Bradish earned the win after working 6.0 scoreless innings, scattering two hits, a walk, and a hit batter with eight strikeouts; lowered his ERA to 3.0313, the second-best mark in the AL behind New York-AL’s Gerrit Cole (3.0311).

TOP GUNN: On Sunday in Oakland, Gunnar Henderson went 4-for-5 with two doubles, one triple, one home run, three runs, and two RBI, finishing a single shy of becoming the eighth player in O’s history to hit for the cycle…According to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs (@ SlangsOnSports), Henderson recorded the 44th individual game in MLB history with multiple doubles, a triple, and a home run, and the first such game since New York-NL’s David Wright on June 23, 2013 at Philadelphia; at 22 years, 52 days old, Henderson was the secondyoungest player with such a game, after Detroit’s Al Kaline, who accomplished the feat at 21 years, 194 days old on June 30, 1956 at Kansas City…The only other Oriole to post such a stat line was Don Baylor on April 6, 1973 vs. Milwaukee…Henderson also became the first Oriole with four extra-base hits in a game since Melvin Mora on August 17, 2008 at Detroit, as well as the youngest, breaking the mark held by Cal Ripken, Jr., who did so at 23 years, 10 days old on September 3, 1983 at Minnesota.

Henderson is the ninth rookie in Orioles history to hit 20 home runs in a season and first since Ryan Mountcastle set the O’s rookie record with 33 long balls in 2021.

He is also the fourth O’s rookie to hit six triples and the first since Al Bumbry (11) and Rich Coggins (9) in 1973; he is one double away from becoming the third rookie in team history to record 20+ doubles, 5+ triples, and 20+ homers, which would join Ripken, Jr. (1982) and Ron Hansen (1960), both of whom won AL Rookie of the Year.

Henderson leads AL rookies and ranks second among MLB rookies with 4.0 bWAR; he also leads AL rookies and ranks tied for third among MLB rookies with 3.1 fWAR.

Henderson leads the O’s with eight Defensive Runs Saved, per Sports Info Solutions; seven of those are at shortstop, eighth in MLB despite playing over 200 fewer innings at the position than anyone ahead of him.

MOUNT UP: Ryan Mountcastle has reached base safely in a career-high 26 straight games since July 21, the longest active streak in MLB (see box at right)…It is the longest on-base streak by an Orioles batter since Jonathan Schoop reached in 26 consecutive games from April 12 to May 12, 2017; the last Oriole to reach safely in at least 27 games was Nick Markakis, who had a 38-game streak from July 5 to August 18, 2009…Mountcastle has recorded a hit in 20 of the last 21 games since July 28…His 12-game hitting streak, the second-longest of his career, was snapped on August 11 at Seattle…Mountcastle is slashing .403/.474/.612 (27- for-67) with two doubles, four home runs, 14 runs scored, 14 RBI, 10 walks, and one stolen base in 18 games in August…Entering today, he ranks among MLB leaders this month in on-base percentage (1st), batting average (3rd), hits (T-6th), and OPS (8th, 1.086)…He’s reached base safely in all 29 of his starts since returning from the Injured List on July 9 while batting .388/.449/.631 (40-for-103) with seven doubles, six homers, 21 runs scored, 20 RBI, 13 walks, and one stolen base in those games.

SWEEPLESS IN BALTIMORE: The Orioles have gone 79 consecutive series of at least two decisions (no ties) without being swept…According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most consecutive series without getting swept in O’s history (since 1954), ahead of 46 consecutive sweepless series from 1971-72…It is the fifth-longest such streak in MLB history, trailing the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals (124), 1906-09 Chicago Cubs (115), 1903-05 New York Giants (105), and 1922-24 New York Yankees (83)…The Birds have not been swept in a series of at least two games since May 13-15, 2022 at Detroit (0-3), and not at home in a series of at least two games since August 27-29, 2021 vs. Tampa Bay (0-3).

WHAT’S TRENDING: The O’s have won six of their last eight games, seven of 10, 14 of 20, 15 of 22, 28 of 40, and 29 of 43…At 77-47 (.621), the Orioles have the best record in the AL and second-best in MLB (see box at right)…The Braves (80-44, .645) and Dodgers (76-47, .618) are the only other teams with at least 70 wins and a .600 winning percentage this season… The team had a season-best eight-game winning streak from July 5-16, Baltimore’s longest since a 10-gamer from July 3-13, 2022…The Birds are 139-96 (.591) since June 2022, the second-best record in the AL and fourth-best in MLB during that time.

The O’s hold a 3.0-game lead over the Rays in the AL East.

WRAPPING UP THE ROAD TRIP: The Orioles return to Baltimore after a nine-game, 10-day road trip, during which they went 6-3 in Seattle (2-1), San Diego (1-2), and Oakland (3-0)…The trip was tied for Baltimore’s second-longest of the season with another nine-game, 10-day tour from September 1-10, which features three games each in Arizona (September 1-3), Los Angeles-AL (September 4-6), and Boston (September 8-10)…Baltimore’s only longer trip this season was a 10-game, 11-day expedition from April 27 to May 7, during which the O’s went 6-4 in Detroit (3-1), Kansas City (2-1), and Atlanta (1-2).

Baltimore is 41-24 (.631) away from Camden Yards this season, the best road record in the AL and second-best in MLB behind Atlanta (38-22, .633); the .631 road winning percentage would be the second-best since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954, behind 1997 (52-29, .642).

FEELS GOOD TO BE HOME: The Orioles begin a nine-game homestand with the first of three games against the Blue Jays tonight…The Orioles will host the Rockies for three games from August 25-27 and the White Sox for three to conclude the homestand from August 28-30.

The Orioles are 36-23 (.610) at home this season, the third-best home record in the AL and fifth-best in MLB; the O’s have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games at Oriole Park.

BATTLE OF THE BIRDS: The O’s and Jays complete their season series against each other this week…Baltimore has clinched the season series victory over Toronto after going 8-2 through the first 10 games, including finishing 6-1 north of the border…The O’s swept a three-game series at Rogers Centre from May 19-21, took two of three at Oriole Park from June 13-15, and three of four at Rogers Centre from July 31 to August 3…Since the start of 2022, the O’s hold a 17-12 (.586) edge over the Blue Jays.

Ryan Mountcastle went 11-for-13 with four doubles, five runs scored, six RBI, three walks, and one stolen base during the four-game set in Toronto from July 31 to August 3…The 11 hits are tied with Merv Rettenmund (September 24-26, 1971 at Cleveland) for the most in a four-game series since the Orioles moved to Baltimore in 1954.

STATE OF THE FARM: For the second straight year, Baseball America, ESPN, and MLB Pipeline have named the Orioles the top farm system in baseball in their midseason rankings…The O’s have seven prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100 (see box at right) and six in the MLB Pipeline list; Jackson Holliday is ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by both outlets.

STARTING PITCHER – #30 GRAYSON RODRIUGEZ RHP
QUICK HITS: Slated to make his 17th start of the season, ninth at home, and third career start against the Blue Jays tonight…Recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on July 17, his second stint with the O’s…Worked 5.0 shutout innings on April 23 vs. Detroit and April 29 (G2) at Detroit to become the youngest O’s pitcher (23-164) to toss 5.0-or-more scoreless innings in back-to-back games since Dave Ford (21-259) from September 2-14, 1978, and the youngest O’s starter to accomplish the feat since Jack Fisher (21-188) did so in three straight starts from August 29 to September 8, 1960… Made his MLB debut on April 5 at Texas, becoming the first Oriole to make his debut this season…Thirteen players (7 pitchers) made their debut for the O’s in 2022…Also became the first O’s pitcher to start his Major League debut since DL Hall on August 13, 2022, and the youngest O’s pitcher (23-140) to start his debut since Kevin Gausman (22-137) on May 23, 2013 at Toronto…Had his contract selected to the 40-man roster on November 15, 2022…Originally selected by the Orioles in the first round (No. 11 overall) of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

LAST TIME OUT: Earned his third win of the season in his last outing on August 14 at San Diego…Allowed one run on three hits (1 HR) with one walk and six strikeouts in a career-high 7.0 innings…Marked his second straight quality start and third in his last four outings since July 28…Retired 11 consecutive batters before allowing a solo home run to Garrett Cooper in the sixth inning…Has surrendered three earned-runs-or-fewer in each of his last five assignments since July 22…Threw 95 pitches, 65 strikes.

VIEWS FROM THE SIX: Making his third career start against the Blue Jays tonight… Owns an 0-1 record with a 4.22 ERA (5 ER/10.2 IP) and a 0.94 WHIP in his two career outings against the AL East foe…Dealt the loss in his last outing against Toronto on August 2 at Rogers Centre…Surrendered three runs on two hits with two walks, a wild pitch, and six strikeouts in 5.2 innings…The two hits tied his career low (also: 4/29 [G1] at DET)…Two of the runs scored after he exited the game…Threw 96 pitches, 63 strikes.

BEAST FROM THE EAST: Is slated to make his sixth career start against the AL East tonight…Has pitched to a 1-1 record with a 2.86 ERA (9 ER/28.1 IP), one quality start, and a 1.02 WHIP in five career assignments against the division.

ROUNDING INTO FORM: Rodriguez tossed a career-high 7.0 innings in his last outing on August 14 at San Diego, becoming the youngest O’s hurler (23-271) to complete .0 frames since Dylan Bundy (23-261) on August 2, 2016 vs. Texas (7.0 IP, H, BB, 7 K)…Has pitched to a 1-1 record with a 3.03 ERA (12 ER/35.2 IP), a 0.98 WHIP, and three quality starts in six MLB outings since July 17.

NOTHING EXTRA: Rodriguez has allowed one or no extra-base hits in each of his last six MLB starts since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on July 17, tied for the fifth-longest active streak among starting pitchers entering play today…Opposing batters are slashing .195/.265/.252 (24-for-123) with four extra-base hits (2-2B, 3B, HR) in those games…Surrendered 24 extra-base hits (9-2B, 2-3B, 13 HR) in his first 10 career starts.

THROWING GAS: Rodriguez threw the fastest strikeout pitch by an O’s starter in the Statcast era (since 2015) on July 28 vs. New York-AL, fanning Anthony Rizzo on a 100.2 mph fastball…Now owns each of the 22 fastest strikeout pitches by Orioles starters this season…His strikeout of Rizzo was tied for the eighth-fastest punchout pitch among MLB rookie starters this season.

HIGH QUALITY: Rodriguez logged his first career quality start on July 28 vs. New York-AL, becoming the youngest O’s hurler (23-254) to do so since Miguel Castro (22-222) on August 3, 2017 vs. Detroit (6.0 IP, H, BB, 2 K)…Has also allowed two earned runs-or-fewer in nine of his first 16 career Major League starts, the most such outings by an O’s hurler in that span since Wei-Yin Chen permitted fewer than two runs in 11 of his first 16 career assignments in 2012.

PACKING A PUNCH: Rodriguez’s 86 strikeouts through his first 15 career Major League starts are tied with Tom Phoebus (1966) for the most by an O’s hurler in that span franchise history (since 1954)…Recorded a career-high nine punchouts on April 29 (G2) at Detroit, becoming the youngest O’s pitcher (23-164) to record nine-or-more strikeouts in a start since John Parrish (22-241) also fanned nine batters on July 24, 2000 vs. New York-AL.

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