We may have finally found a must-win game for the Orioles. New York has finished off Tampa Bay earlier today, meaning that the O's must win to keep pace, and should they fall back into the wild card spot, they may be on a date with a one-game playoff against this same Athletics team that they have seemed helpless against on the road. A home run-heavy, fly ball-hitting team just doesn't match up well in that cavernous expanse, with huge outfields, fences far back, and an absolutely absurd amount of foul territory.
To top this off, Randy Wolf will be starting for the O's tomorrow, Tuesday's is still a TBA, and on Wednesday in Seattle they will face Felix Hernandez. There is not an easy stretch even as they return to teams that are out of contention.
So they will be looking for a big game from Zach Britton, and they will be looking for hitters to regroup and do better than they did last night - at least, we hope, with fewer inning-ending double plays, which the O's did in four consecutive innings last night. They are no longer the league-leaders in GIDPs, but they are in third place and pretty close to the leaders. Wilson Betemit's wrist was re-injured and he is gone.
The lineup is the lineup. There are mostly no reinforcements to be found. It's up to those who are left to step up, if they are capable of stepping up. Perhaps this is the final challenge they cannot overcome - or perhaps it all seems worse since they are facing a playoff-bound team in their home park, in which they enjoy a significant advantage. In any case, the hitters will be facing righty Jarrod Parker, who is 23 years old, and has a 2.48 ERA at home compared to a 4.95 ERA on the road. It's a bad sign for the O's, just like the .626 OPS that righties are hitting against him is a bad sign.
And as for Britton, a ground-ball pitcher, we heard last night that since football season has started up, the Oakland infield might very well be hard and fast. So Britton might not even be a guy we would want to see tonight, if that field condition means ground balls could be a bad thing.
I mentioned last night that this series could be the true test of which team is the team of destiny in 2012. It sure looks like she's wearing green right now. But maybe the Orioles will surprise us tonight and find a way to keep pace in the AL East with yet another improbable victory pulled out of their hats.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||OAKLAND ATHLETICS|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Coco Crisp - CF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Jonny Gomes - DH|
|Matt Wieters - C||Josh Reddick - RF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Yoenis Cespedes - LF|
|Chris Davis - DH||Chris Carter - 1B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Jason Donaldson - 3B|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Derek Norris - C|
|Endy Chavez - RF||Stephen Drew - SS|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Adam Rosales - 2B|