Blue Jays plot to shut down Orioles’ Ryan Mountcastle

Ryan Mountcastle continues to hit well against the Toronto Blue Jays, and as a result, the visiting Baltimore Orioles can clinch the teams’ three-game series on Tuesday night.

Mountcastle walked twice and hit a two-run home run on Monday as the Orioles took the series opener 7-3 for their fifth win in seven games against the Blue Jays this season.

Baltimore moved within 1 1/2 games of Toronto in the American League wild-card standings. The Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays are tied for the second and third wild-card spots, with the Seattle Mariners a half-game ahead in the first position.

Mountcastle’s 16th home run of the season in the third inning on Monday was the 14th of his career against Toronto.

In 32 career games vs. the Blue Jays, he has gone 45-for-125 (.360) with six doubles, 28 RBIs and a 1.164 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

“He’s a great player, great hitter, especially in Toronto,” said Baltimore right-hander Kyle Bradish, who allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings on Monday. “Anytime he gets up to bat, he can do damage.”

Mountcastle returned the lineup on Monday after missing the team’s Sunday loss to the Tampa Bay Rays due to a bruised hand and wrist. He was hit by a pitch on Saturday.

Baltimore’s Ryan McKenna was 3-for-5 on Monday with a single, two doubles, one run and one RBI. It was his first career three-hit game.

McKenna started the game with a double and soon scored the contest’s first run. It was a boost for the Oriole after two tough losses against the Rays.

“That’s kind of been the story of this team all year,” McKenna said. “We’ve been resilient and it doesn’t matter if we win one or two or lose one or two, we’re going to come back and we’re going to really just give it our all and prepare the same way. It’s been really fun to be a part of, and we’re gonna keep doing it going forward.”

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said, “We had a tough series in (St. Petersburg, Fla.). It was a tough last two games there, and there’s a lot of disappointment, and for us to score right away in the first inning, for me, that was big.”

Right-hander Dean Kremer (4-4, 3.69 ERA) will start Tuesday for Baltimore. He is 0-1 with an 11.32 ERA in three career starts against Toronto.

Right-hander Alek Manoah (12-5, 2.56 ERA) will start for Toronto. In five career starts against Baltimore, he is 2-0 with a 2.96 ERA.

Toronto reinstated outfielder George Springer (right elbow inflammation) from the injured list on Monday and designated outfielder Bradley Zimmer for assignment.

Springer served as the designated hitter in the opener against the Orioles and went 2-for-4 with a walk.

The Blue Jays got another disappointing start from Yusei Kikuchi, who allowed six runs (three earned) in 3 1/3 innings on Monday.

“It’s frustrating for him, it’s frustrating for us, but overall his stuff was OK,” Toronto interim manager John Schneider said.

With the wild-card race tightening, Schneider is considering all options.

“There’s more urgency than patience because the season is getting short,” Schneider said. “If anything, it’s a credit to the bullpen for being forced into the game early and doing a good job.”

The Blue Jays also have been playing some sloppy baseball on the field, which has not helped the struggles at the plate.

“We have to take care of the ball, we have to score more runs,” Schneider said.

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