One reason the Toronto Blue Jays have qualified for the playoffs in this pandemic-condensed season is their success against the Baltimore Orioles, and they will look to continue that domination Saturday night in the middle game of a three-game series at Buffalo.
The Blue Jays (31-27) defeated thevisiting Orioles (24-34) 10-5 Friday night in the series opener and are 7-1 in the season series between the teams.
Toronto still has a chance to finish second in the American League East and improve its seeding. The second-place New York Yankees had their lead over the Blue Jays cut to one game after they lost to the Miami Marlins in 10 innings Friday.
The Blue Jays are scheduled to start right-hander Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 4.71 ERA) in his second outing since coming off the injured reserve list. The Orioles will start left-hander John Means (2-3, 5.02).
Shoemaker is a candidate to start the third game (if necessary) of the three-game first-round playoff series.
He allowed one run in three innings Monday against the Yankees in his first start since Aug. 21 because of shoulder inflammation.
This will be Shoemaker's seventh start of the season and his first against Baltimore. He is 3-1, with a 2.25 ERA, in five career starts against Baltimore.
Means allowed two runs in four innings against Toronto in a no-decision start Aug. 28. He is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against Toronto.
The Blue Jays are using the weekend games to prepare for the postseason that starts Tuesday.
Regulars Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were rested Friday and two more position players will be given a break for the games Saturday and Sunday.
The Blue Jays would finish second in the AL East with a sweep of the Orioles and two losses by the Yankees.
"We're going to go out there to play to win but my main goal right now is to give guys days off because they need it," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "It's been a grind. Try to keep them healthy for the playoffs. Whoever needs to get some rest will get rest."
Another objective will be to set up the pitching staff for next week.
Taijuan Walker was limited to three perfect innings Friday as a tune up for next week. Rookie Nate Pearson came off the IL (elbow) to pitch 1 2/3 innings in relief Friday to earn his first major league win. His 100-mile-an-hour fastball could be valuable in relief during the playoffs.
"Of course, we're still playing to win," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "But depending on how this weekend goes, make sure that we put ourselves in a good position from a pitching standpoint, we should have more flexibility on that front, to consider carrying another position player or two, especially in a shorter series."
Meanwhile, the Orioles are winding down their season and looking forward to next year. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said that he began exit interviews on Thursday and they are continuing this weekend in Buffalo. Baltimore has lost eight of its last 11 games.
"These last few weeks have been tough," Hyde said. "Our guys' numbers have dropped, pretty significantly, a lot of them. We're going to talk about that and continue to try to get these guys better, discuss things they can work on in the offseason."
--Field Level Media