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Orioles attempt to pass Blue Jays in wild-card race

Aug 16, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins (31) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fifth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles will be out to complete a three-game sweep in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon, knowing that a victory would move them past the Blue Jays in the American League wild-card standings.

The Orioles, who were 5-14 against the Blue Jays last season, have won six of eight from Toronto this season.

Baltimore took the first two games of the current three-game series, including a 4-2 victory on Tuesday night, and has moved to within a half-game of the Blue Jays in the race for the third and final AL wild card.

On Tuesday, Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins and Adley Rutschman hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning to tie the game.

Since the beginning of August, Mullins is batting .314 (16-for-51) with three doubles, three homers and six RBIs.

Dean Kremer pitched seven strong innings for the Orioles, allowing only two first-inning runs. The seven innings matched his career best set against the Seattle Mariners on June 28.

“That was the best pitching performance for him by far,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “That’s huge for us and huge for him. That shows you the kind of pitcher he can be.”

The Orioles scored twice in the fifth and twice in the sixth against Toronto starter Alek Manoah.

“We’re having fun right now,” Kremer said. “Standings or not, we’re having a blast.”

Right-hander Austin Voth (3-1, 5.34 ERA) will start for the Orioles on Wednesday. He is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three career appearances (one start) against the Blue Jays.

Toronto right-hander Ross Stripling (5-3, 3.16 ERA) will come off the injured list to start. He had been sidelined since July 31 due to a hip strain. Stripling is 1-0 with a 5.84 ERA in five career outings (two starts) against the Orioles.

The Blue Jays have had center fielder George Springer back in the lineup for the first two games against the Orioles. He was on the injured list from Aug. 5 through Sunday due to right elbow inflammation. Springer was used as the designated hitter and batted in his usual leadoff spot the past two games.

Springer was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk on Monday and 1-for-4 with a run on Tuesday.

Springer’s presence has yet to break the Blue Jays from a funk that has reached 3-9, but interim manager John Schneider feels they have a better chance with him in the lineup.

“On paper, it speaks for itself,” Schneider said. “His presence and his energy, then obviously his ability, he’s up at the top of the order and it makes a big difference. … We’re not asking him to be a world-beater, but just be himself.”

Springer led off the bottom of the first on Tuesday with an infield hit, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. followed with his 25th homer of the season.

“(Springer) sees pitches,” Schneider said. “I know his first at-bat may be different sometimes, but I’ve said it before: It’s about on-base and damage potential. Having him there to get on base for guys in the middle is key, but it’s also about his overall presence.

“He’s an elite player and one of the best in the league. Just having that makes your lineup that much better. We like his overall presence.”

Guerrero went 2-for-4 on Tuesday and has hit safely in 25 of his past 26 games against the Orioles, batting .368 (39-for-106) with four doubles, 16 homers and 32 RBIs.

–Field Level Media