Four in Tampa, three at Camden Yards against Toronto, and three more with our best friends.. The Red Sox(this time at home). Let's take a closer look at the four upcoming games in Tampa. Starting with tonight's game, we have Jason Hammel going up against David Price, who has consistently been above average since coming off the DL after the all-star break. However, the O's always seem to find ways to score runs, so as long as Hammel can keep us in it for five or six innings, we have a good shot at winning game one. Hammel also shows a lower ERA on road starts and his ERA is more than a full point lower on turf, so maybe this start at The Trop will be his turning point. Saturday's starter for the O's is still undetermined, but we can assume it will be Miguel Gonzalez going up a hit-able Alex Cobb. Gonzalez's last start against the Rays was merely average, going 5.2 innings, giving up eight hits and two earned runs. His last start came against the Toronto Blue Jays, turning in a win, which is all we can ask for Saturday afternoon. What we have to remember is that the Rays are still clawing for a wildcard spot as well, so none of these four games will come easy to either team. Sunday's game features Scott Feldman, who has been pitching his best baseball lately, and Jeremy Hellickson, the young right-hander with an ERA over five. Feldman has been more than solid in his last three starts, holding a 1.70 ERA in that span. The final of the four games will seemingly have Wei-Yin Chen going up against rookie Chris Archer(who is from my hometown so this one will be tough for me). Chen has struggled for the last month, but his last start against the Rays was a good one, turning in 7 full innings, giving up six hits and two runs.
The Orioles hold the third highest batting average on turf, behind only the Los Angeles Angels and the Kansas City Royals, at .270. Also, our power hitting lineup is second in homers on turf with 24, behind the Boston's 25(obviously not counting the Rays or Blue Jays). The O's have yet to bust it open for a double-digit run game in September, so maybe the time will come in the next four games. These four games in Tampa could be the deciding factor, as the Rays travel to New York followed by Toronto to end the year. If the O's can win three of four from the Rays, we will move closer to one of the two wildcard spots. Cleveland has an "easy" remaining schedule(remember, these guys are professionals) against Houston, CWS, and the Twins in that order. The Texas Rangers finish out the year with three games in Kansas City, who is still lurking, and then have a home-stand for seven games, four with Houston, and three with the Angels. No doubt, the O's have the most difficult road to the postseason, but I wouldn't want it any other way. People need to understand that this is our postseason. It's win or go home. Our team can do it, we have all of the tools to succeed; now it is time to prove ourselves and get to the postseason for consecutive years for the first time since 1996 and 1997. GO TIME.
-PROUD ORIOLES FAN