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BAL@HOU: Jimenez fans eight, allows one run over six

Despite falling to the Orioles, 4-2, on Thursday night, Toronto sits atop the AL East with a lead of 3 1/2 games. But as well as Toronto has played, it is currently in a bit of a rut.

Thursday's defeat dropped the Blue Jays to 1-5 since they won 15 of 17 contests from May 20 to June 6. Meanwhile, Baltimore has spent the past week shaving its AL East deficit that had been as many as 6 1/2 games.

"They've got a good ballclub," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "It's a tight race. It's only June, but it's a tight race. We haven't been playing particularly well lately, so it's a good time for us to get going again."

The Blue Jays will turn to right-hander Drew Hutchison to stave off the Orioles, a task he mastered in two turns against them so far this season. He has notched two quality starts against Baltimore, giving up only two earned runs in 12 innings.

Hutchison could use another gem against the Orioles after sandwiching seven scoreless innings against the Tigers in Detroit on June 3 between two rough outings at the Rogers Centre that saw him surrender 10 earned runs in a combined eight innings.

He owns a 2.03 ERA in eight road starts and an 8.72 ERA in five home outings, a split the Blue Jays hope will hold true on Friday night at Camden Yards.

"He's definitely pitched better on the road -- and some guys are like that," Gibbons said after Hutchison's latest turn. "It's hard to put a finger on it. But you can't pitch them on the road every time."

The venue does not matter much for Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who continues his quest to prove Baltimore did not make a mistake by signing him to the richest free-agent deal for a pitcher in franchise history during the offseason.

He has made only three quality starts in 13 outings, and his 5.01 ERA is the worst mark in the Orioles' starting rotation. As he heads to the hill for his seventh start at home, he hopes to improve on his 7.04 ERA at Camden Yards this season.

Jimenez faced the minimum through two innings against the A's in his most recent home start, on June 8, before a disastrous third. He walked three, gave up a John Jaso double and walked another batter before Brandon Morrow ended the right-hander's day with a grand slam -- the most recent homer surrendered by a Baltimore hurler.

"I started so good the first couple innings, and then that inning I lost the ability to throw a strike," Jimenez said. "It's one of those days. It's a really tough game."

Orioles: Keeping clubs in the yard
Even the Blue Jays, who lead the Majors with 91 home runs, proved powerless in ending the Orioles' streak of consecutive innings without allowing a long ball, which stands at 42.

Baltimore hurlers had also gone 23 innings without allowing an extra-base hit before Toronto third baseman Juan Francisco doubled to lead off the top of the fifth inning of the Orioles' 4-2 victory on Thursday night.

Blue Jays: Rasmus rehabs
Colby Rasmus finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in the first game of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday. He is working his way back from right hamstring tightness, which landed him on the disabled list on May 15.

Rasmus served as the designated hitter and singled on the first pitch he saw from Toledo starter Robbie Ray, the Tigers' top-ranked prospect, in the top of the first in an 11-0 loss to the Mud Hens.

Worth noting
• Jose Bautista has reached base safely in 65 of 68 games, hitting safely in 51 of those contests.

• Chris Davis and Adam Jones finished a combined 0-for-7 with a walk on Thursday night, but the duo has combined for 32 homers against Toronto since the beginning of the 2012 season. The Orioles lead the Majors with 17 home runs in June. Comments