The Orioles were just 2.5 games back of the Blue Jays for the third and final American League wild-card spot before last week’s four-game series in Baltimore.
The Blue Jays won three of four in that entertaining, intense series – and have made gains in the playoff race since then by winning five of eight.
Toronto is now tied for the top wild-card spot with the Seattle Mariners, a half game up on the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Orioles are 4.5 games out of a playoff spot and five back of Toronto and Seattle, meaning they are in desperate need of at least a series victory this weekend.
Here’s a preview of the matchup.
Friday, 7:07 p.m. ET / 4:07 p.m. PT (Apple TV+): Toronto TBD vs. Baltimore RHP Jordan Lyles (10-10, 4.62 ERA)
Saturday, 3:07 p.m. ET / 12:07 p.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto RHP Jose Berrios (10-5, 5.07 ERA) vs. Baltimore RHP Kyle Bradish (3-6, 5.01 ERA)
Sunday, 1:37 p.m. ET / 10:37 a.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (14-2, 2.43 ERA) vs. Baltimore RHP Dean Kremer (7-5, 3.34 ERA)
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The Blue Jays (81-63) lost 11-0 to the visiting Rays on Thursday, but still won the key series 3-2.
Toronto got strong starts from Berrios, Manoah and Ross Stripling in its three wins.
On Thursday, the Rays got to Kevin Gausman for four runs in the second inning and then broke the game open late.
The Blue Jays will be going with a bullpen day on Friday, which will be challenging. But Gausman did well to get through seven innings while giving up five runs, at least preserving the bullpen.
Mitch White went six innings in relief on Tuesday as the extra man in the first game of a doubleheader, but won’t be available for this one.
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The Orioles (75-67) are coming off a sweep of a mini-series in Washington against the rival Nationals.
It was a much-needed turnaround for the Orioles, who had lost six of eight before the series against the Nationals.
Rookie Gunnar Henderson had a Little League homer to key a four-run seventh in a 6-2 win in the series finale on Wednesday.
After back-to-back singles, Henderson laced an opposite-field hit down the line. Cesar Hernandez, playing left for just the fourth time in his 10-year career, appeared to anticipate the ball caroming off a wall in foul territory, only for it to zip into the corner.
Hernandez then lost his grip on the ball when he tried to throw it back to the infield, an error that allowed Henderson to charge home.
Henderson finished the game with four RBI. The infielder is hitting .320 with nine RBIs in 14 games since his Aug. 31 callup from triple-A Norfolk.
The four-game series last week against Baltimore won’t soon be forgotten.
The Blue Jays opened with a doubleheader sweep on Labour Day with Bo Bichette hitting three homers in the nightcap.
The next night, tempers flared and the benches cleared when Orioles reliever Bryan Baker, a former Blue Jay, made a yapping gesture toward the Toronto dugout after he exchanged words with Teoscar Hernandez. Blue Jays manager John Schneider was later ejected in the loss.
The following night, the fiery Manoah delivered a gem in a 4-1 win.
Baltimore is 7-6 against the Blue Jays this season.
The teams conclude the regular season with a three-game series at Camden Yards, Oct. 3-6.
The AL East-leading New York Yankees, who are 6.5 games ahead of the Blue Jays, are in Milwaukee to face the Brewers (76-67) this weekend.
The Rays entertain the Texas Rangers (62-81), while the Mariners are on the road to face the Los Angeles Angels (61-82).
Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left hamstring strain) is eligible to come off the IL on Sunday, but Schneider has said he might need more time.
Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk sat out Thursday’s game with left hip tightness and is considered day-to-day.
Orioles second baseman Rougned Odor (right hand) hasn’t played since he was hit by a pitch on Sunday, though the team has said he has been available off the bench.
After an off-day on Monday, the Blue Jays open a two-game series in Philadelphia against the Phillies. That’s followed by four more road games against the Rays.
With files from AP