Though they can't be happy about their slump, the Toronto Blue Jays have every reason to feel confident that Shaun Marcum is the right pitcher to handle the adversity.
Marcum, whose wins this season have all followed Blue Jays defeats, looks to play the role of stopper once again in the opener of a three-game series with the lowly Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
Following an off day, Toronto (27-22) opens a nine-game homestand hoping to bounce back from a 3-5 trip. The Blue Jays dropped the final two games of a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels, including a 6-5 loss in the finale Wednesday.
Now, Toronto will give the ball to Marcum (4-1, 2.82 ERA), who has earned all four of his wins this season in May, and all have come following Blue Jays losses.
The right-hander has won his last three starts and is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his last six. He gave up three runs while striking out a season-high eight in five innings of a 12-4 victory over Arizona on Sunday.
Marcum, however, has struggled versus the Orioles (15-33), going 1-2 with a 5.47 ERA in nine starts. If he falters against Baltimore again, Toronto may need a big game from one of baseball's top power-hitting lineups.
The Blue Jays lead the majors with 79 homers. They have connected 23 times while averaging 7.7 runs en route to winning seven of their last nine at home.
Toronto is on pace to top the single-season franchise home run record of 244 set in 2000, and may give the all-time mark a run. Seattle set the record with 264 homers in 1997.
"I don't know what it is," Jose Bautista told the Blue Jays' official website. "We're all having good at-bats and we're squaring up the ball pretty good. I know what's working for me is getting ready on time at the plate. I just hope to be consistent with it throughout the year."
Bautista, who began his career with Baltimore, leads Toronto with 15 homers and 39 RBIs. He is already one home run shy of his career high, set in 2006 with Pittsburgh.
Bautista's 25 homers since Sept. 7 lead the majors. He has two home runs in seven at-bats against Kevin Millwood (0-4, 3.71), who is taking the mound for the Orioles.
Millwood continues to be plagued by poor support, getting an AL-low 2.2 runs to work with. The veteran right-hander surrendered three runs and struck out eight in 6 1-3 innings as Baltimore lost 4-3 in 10 innings to Washington on Sunday.
Millwood is 2-5 with a 4.80 ERA in 10 starts against the Blue Jays.
Baltimore gave up 13 runs in losing the final two games of a three-game set with Oakland, blowing a three-run lead in a 7-5 loss Thursday night. The Orioles have lost nine of 12, but are expected to have two of their top hitters back.
Nick Markakis missed Baltimore's last game to be with his wife, who gave birth to the couple's second child, and Luke Scott (shoulder) will likely be back after sitting out the past three games. Markakis and Scott are both 1 for 8 against the Blue Jays this season.
Toronto swept a three-game series at Baltimore in April and has won 20 of 27 at home against the Orioles since the start of the 2007 season.