After another big game from Manny Machado and their reliable bullpen, the Baltimore Orioles are on the verge of their first three-game sweep this season.
But with an inexperienced pitcher making his Orioles debut Wednesday, Baltimore may need to rely on that bullpen again as it hosts the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Orioles (12-8) have won five of six and nine of 13 after Tuesday's 4-3 victory, with all four runs coming in the second inning, including two on a two-out single from Machado. Miguel Gonzalez turned in the third quality start by a Baltimore pitcher over the last four games and three relievers behind him combined for three shutout innings. Closer Jim Johnson remained perfect in save opportunities, converting his eighth.
The bullpen has held opponents to two runs over its last 13 1-3 innings with 15 strikeouts, and Tuesday's victory was the Orioles' 100th straight in games they've held a lead after seven innings, going back to August 2011.
"Our bullpen hasn't failed us yet, knock on wood," said Machado, hitting .333 over his last six games with three doubles and seven RBIs. "They do a good job in holding the lead. Once the ninth inning comes, Jimmy comes out, and you know it's lights out because you know he's going to shut the door for us."
Another good relief performance could be necessary Wednesday as Josh Stinson makes his second career start. Claimed off waivers from Oakland on April 4, Stinson is 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA in 20 major league appearances. He'll be activated Wednesday after making two starts for Triple-A Norfolk.
While with the Brewers last October, Stinson yielded one run and three hits while walking two over four innings against San Diego in his first start.
"I'm very excited," the right-hander told the Orioles' official website. "Any time you get claimed, obviously the team sees something in you. And to be in the big leagues this fast, it is a great opportunity for me and I'm just going to try to take it and run with it."
The Blue Jays (8-13), meanwhile, have lost six of eight, with Edwin Encarnacion's three-run homer providing their scoring Tuesday. They hope Brandon Morrow (0-2, 5.57 ERA) can shake off his inconsistent start to the season as he gets the ball.
Morrow has alternated between good starts and subpar efforts, including his last outing as he gave up seven runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-4 loss to the Yankees on Friday. New York jumped on him for five of those runs in the first three innings.
"I fell behind early in the count the first few batters and wasn't locating my fastball well," said Morrow, who allowed two home runs.
Strikeouts have proven elusive for Morrow, who averages 9.5 per nine innings for his career but is at a personal-worst rate of 6.4 this year.
Morrow is 3-3 with a 4.58 ERA in nine starts against Baltimore, with outfielder Adam Jones going 11 for 28 (.393) with three home runs in their matchups.
Emilio Bonifacio is the only Blue Jay to face Stinson, singling in one at-bat. Bonifacio is 0 for 8 with four strikeouts over his last six games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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