Game 144: Orioles (81-62) @ Athletics (82-61), 10:05pm

Joe Saunders looks to lead the Orioles into sole possession of first place in the American League East. That thought should scare us all. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

In every other year since I joined Camden Chat, this is the kind of game where I'd say that you would have to be a true, die-hard, no-turning-back Orioles addict to watch a game like this. It's mid-September, on the west coast, Friday night, facing the Athletics, and Joe Saunders is your starter. In other years you'd have to really, really want to see some Orioles baseball to want to watch this.

Ah, but this year... well, we all know what's happening this year. And the Yankees are in action against Tampa Bay, a game that should come to its conclusion around or shortly after the time the O's-A's game begins, and if the result holds as I am composing this post (through 5 innings) the O's could be playing for a chance at sole possession of first place in the American League East. Those are some serious stakes.

How much energy will the team have after an exhausting sweep of Tampa Bay and then a west coast trip? Jet lag would not be a good thing to contend with as they try to either keep pace with the Yankees or pass them. Oakland has some stakes to play for themselves as well, only three games back of Texas and holding on to the top wild card spot, meaning that the one-game playoff would take place in their home stadium - a home stadium which is expected to sell out tonight on Star Wars Fireworks Night (I'm sorry that I'm not there).

The cavernous Colosseum may be the right place for Saunders, who I will probably never feel good about. It's certainly been a friendly space for Athletics starter Tommy Milone, whose 3.90 ERA on the season hides the fact that, in 13 starts he's made at home this year, he has a 2.77 ERA. That's no joke. People bat .310 off him on the road and .226 at home. And despite being a lefty pitcher, lefty batters have a .746 OPS against him whereas righty batters only bat to a .713 OPS.

Yesterday felt good to reach the 81 win mark. I was excited for it and perhaps you were too. That was a nice feeling yesterday, but now as I stare at the rest of the schedule, I can't stop thinking that, with the O's having come this far, it'd be such a shame if they came up short now. Buck Showalter and his merry band of unlikely saviors have been saying all the right things on this front - hopefully they come out tonight and look like a team that belongs.

This series is, in essence, the battle to see which team can truly lay claim to the mantle of the team of destiny in 2012. Oakland's success is nearly as unlikely as that of the Orioles. Tonight we will get a better glimpse of in whose corner destiny truly stands.


Nate McLouth - LF Coco Crisp - CF
J.J. Hardy - SS Jonny Gomes - DH
Adam Jones - CF Josh Reddick - RF
Matt Wieters - C Yoenis Cespedes - LF
Lew Ford - RF Chris Carter - 1B
Mark Reynolds - 1B Josh Donaldson - 3B
Chris Davis - DH Derek Norris - C
Manny Machado - 3B Stephen Drew - SS
Robert Andino - 2B Adam Rosales - 2B

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