The Baltimore Orioles enter today with a 73-64 record and sit three games back of the second wildcard spot in the AL playoff race. Baltimore has 25 games remaining with two teams in front of them for that second wildcard spot and face a AL East heavy schedule the rest of the way.
By no means are the Orioles out of this playoff race, and although the division title is pretty much out of reach, the Orioles will control their own destiny as they search for a second consecutive playoff appearance.
The Birds will finish up their three game set with the Cleveland Indians tonight in a rubber match that will see the O's send Zach Britton to the mound against Indians starter Zach McAllister. Although not a must win, it is as close to a must win as it gets on September 4th.
Tomorrow the Orioles will return home for an eight game home stand that will see the Birds play their final games of the season against non-AL East opponents as they open with a four game set against the Chicago White Sox in a series that the O's will almost have to win three of four. In addition to needing to win three of four, the Orioles are going to open the series tomorrow night to a very small crowd due to the Baltimore Ravens starting the 2013 NFL Season.
After the White Sox, Baltimore will then face 20 straight games against AL East opponents starting with a four game series against the New York Yankees who currently hold a half game lead over the O's in the standings. This will be the final series against the Bronx Bombers for the 2013 regular season and gives the Orioles a chance to control their own destiny in regards to the Yankees. It is hard to say that Baltimore will have to win three of four in this series as well, but it is almost to that point.
The final road trip of the regular season will begin on Friday the 13th in Toronto. The Orioles always seem to have trouble playing across the border, but will have to find a way to rid themselves of their Blue Jays blues if they want to remain in the wildcard race. Again, it is tough to ever say if a team needs to sweep someone, but if the Birds do not at least take two of three against the Jays, they may see their playoff chances disappear before they come home.
After Toronto, the Orioles will enjoy their final off day of the season on Monday the 16th, but then the real interesting games begin. Baltimore will travel to Boston for a three game set and if by chance the Birds find themselves within six game of the division lead, this series would become twice as huge with both the Wildcard and Division race in the balance. Anything short of a series win in Boston would damage any playoff chances the O's may have at the time.
To round out the ten game road trip, perhaps the biggest series remaining on the schedule will take place as Baltimore will travel to Tampa to take on the Rays in a four game series. Four games against the team that currently holds the second wildcard spot is undeniably the best opportunity to gain ground or even take the lead at that point.
After a tough ten game road trip, the O's will return home to finish out the remainder of the regular season. The obvious statement of the day is that when the Orioles arrive at home on September 24 they will either be in the race or out of the race, but we believe the Orioles will either be in control of a wildcard spot or playing some prospects to see who could help them next season.
Baltimore begins the home stand with three against the Blue Jays and if the O's are still in the playoff race, the Birds will almost certainly have to sweep this series.
Down the stretch we come and the O's will close out the regular season with three game against the AL East leading Boston Red Sox. If by some small miracle the Orioles still have a shot at winning the division, this would obviously be a big series, but it will still be huge if the O's are in the wildcard race. Some people may not be thinking about it, but if the Red Sox have clinched the division and do not have much to play for (could still be fighting for best record in AL), the Orioles may see some B-lineups from Boston, which could play into the Orioles favor. Do not think for a minute though, that if the Orioles are in the playoff race that the Red Sox would not want to keep Baltimore out of the playoffs, just like the Birds did to the Red Sox in 2011.
Whenever you talk to a professional athlete or coach, the one thing they wish to have in a playoff race is the ability to control their own destiny, and the Orioles have that the rest of the way. Baltimore has four games each against the two teams that are in front of them for the battle for the second wildcard spot and even have six against the division leading Red Sox. If the Orioles plan to make the playoffs, they will have to go at least 18-7 the rest of the way to finish the season 91-71.
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