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Blue Jays-Orioles preview

BALTIMORE -- The Toronto Blue Jays want to take even tighter control of the American League East and the Baltimore Orioles hope to pull closer to first place when the teams start their crucial three-game series on Monday at Camden Yards.

The Jays (74-56) completed a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins on Sunday with a 9-6 victory and held a 1 1/2-game lead over the Boston Red Sox, who played Sunday night.

Baltimore, meanwhile, has slipped in recent weeks but came on late for a 5-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon in New York. That avoided a three-game New York sweep and kept the Orioles (71-59) in third place, three games behind Toronto.

The games being played in Baltimore could help the Orioles, who have fared much better at home than on the road. They have a 42-22 record at Camden Yards despite losing five of six there on last homestand.

Even though the Orioles have been struggling some in recent weeks, they are intent on staying in this race until the end.

"It's going to be a dogfight," said Baltimore's Steve Pearce, who homered and drove in three runs in Sunday's win. "It's the AL East in September. It's what it's all about, and we're going to have them at our place. We're going to go out there, bring everything we got, and we're going to take care of business."

The Blue Jays will make it tough because they're hot right now. Josh Donaldson homered three times Sunday in the victory over Minnesota, something he has never done before in his career.

"It's nice," Donaldson told reporters after the game. "It's kind of one of those things as a baseball player you want to have it happen one day, and you don't know if it's ever going to happen. It's a rare thing, and I was happy to do it."

Wade Miley (8-10, 5.51 ERA) will start for Baltimore, but the left-hander has struggled since the team acquired him from the Mariners in a late July trade. He won his first game with the team in his last start, beating Washington but going just five innings.

He's 1-2 with an 8.18 ERA in his five Orioles starts.

Marco Estrada (7-6, 3.47) starts for the Blue Jays, and he also has run into trouble lately. He has given up 11 runs and 15 hits -- with five homers -- in nine innings of his last two starts, getting a no-decision against the Yankees and a loss to the Angels.

The Orioles made a flurry of bullpen moves during the weekend to help a taxed group, and one of them paid off Sunday when newly signed Tommy Hunter threw a shutout inning. He had spent much of his career in Baltimore before being traded to the Chicago Cubs last year.

They're also hoping center fielder Adam Jones can return. He left early in Friday's game with New York with a strained left hamstring and missed the rest of the series, but MLB.com said that he might return Monday.

The Jays picked up catcher Dioner Navarro this weekend, and MLB.com reported Sunday that he should come to the team on Monday. Also, he served as Estrada's catcher last year with the Jays.

Plus, right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who had been with Class A Dunedin as Toronto has been watching his innings carefully, will come back Wednesday and start the third game of the series.

Toronto leads the season series 7-6, but Baltimore has won both series at Camden Yards.