August 22, 2014

The Baltimore Orioles still have a sizable lead in the AL East, but they have given away some of that advantage while visiting one of the NL's lowliest teams.

The Orioles will try to maintain their lead after Sunday's finale against the Chicago Cubs while avoiding their first sweep since May and first on the road this season.

Baltimore (73-54) entered the final leg of its nine-game road swing with a nine-game lead in the division but that edge has been cut to seven after back-to-back losses at Wrigley Field. Chris Coghlan hit a go-ahead, three-run triple in the second inning in a 7-2 victory Saturday and Javier Baez had his second homer in as many games, also his seventh in 19 MLB contests.

The Orioles have been swept in one series this season, a three-game set against Detroit from May 12-14. They haven't lost three consecutive games since a season high-tying four straight defeats May 27-30.

Baltimore hasn't been swept on the road since losing four straight to Tampa Bay on Sept. 20-23, and Miguel Gonzalez (6-6, 3.80 ERA) will try to prevent that in his expected return from the minors.

The right-hander, who will make his first start against Chicago, was sent down Aug. 9 to make room for Ubaldo Jimenez's return from the disabled list. With Jimenez having been moved to the bullpen, the Orioles are set to recall Gonzalez from Triple-A Norfolk.

He was 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA in his six starts before being optioned and was 2-0 with a 1.63 ERA in four road outings in that stretch.

"I'm one of the few guys who have options, so it was a decision for them to make. I went down, got my work in and I'm ready to rock and roll," Gonzalez told MLB's official website.

The Cubs (57-72) have swept two series this season, most recently winning three games in Boston from June 30-July 2. They beat the New York Mets in three straight at Wrigley form June 3-5.

They'll send out Tsuyoshi Wada (3-1, 2.75), a former Orioles minor leaguer, in their attempt at another home sweep. The rookie left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last five starts and appeared to have his first career shutout Tuesday when umpires ended a 2-0 game against San Francisco after 4 1/2 innings.

The Giants, though, lodged MLB's first successful protest since 1986 because the Cubs' ground crew couldn't get the tarp down quickly enough to avoid a 4-hour, 34-minute delay.

Wada had his first complete game and shutout erased, but got a victory from a 2-1 win that was completed Thursday and is 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA in his last four starts at Wrigley.

"He did a nice job. Another nice outing," manager Rick Renteria told MLB's official website.

Wada is making his second interleague start and did not get a decision in a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 8.

Baez will try to become the first player with eight homers in his first 20 games since Carlos Delgado did it in 15 contests for Toronto from Oct. 1, 1993-April 19, 1994. Anthony Rizzo is one homer shy of becoming the first left-handed Cubs hitter to reach 30 since Fred McGriff in 2002.

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