Game 153: Orioles (81-71) @ Rays (83-69), 7:10

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Two games back with ten to play. The next four are against the team they need to pass. They can't lose more than one. Friday night, it's Jason Hammel starting for the Orioles against David Price of the Rays.

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The Orioles are two games back of the Rays with ten games left to play. Split the next four and they'll still be two games back with six to play, and Cleveland may pass them. If the O's don't win three out of four, that's probably lights out. How long will they tease us before blowing two games in this series? Will they start out on Friday night with an improbable win over David Price, or will the wind finally come out of their sails with Jason Hammel starting the game?

It's hard to feel good about a crucial game being started by a pitcher who has struggled most of the season, with an ERA over 5. Even last year's Orioles weren't doing much of that in September. The games started by poor-performing pitchers were out of the way much earlier in the season. These O's have no one left to rely on. So Hammel it is.

Price struggled earlier in the season, when the Orioles faced him twice, but he's been a lot better since coming off the disabled list in the beginning of July. That's who they'll be facing tonight - with a weird lineup that will feature Manny Machado leading off, Danny Valencia batting cleanup, and Mike Morse in the lineup at all.

Why all of these things? I'm stumped about Manny, especially with his awful September batting line of .185/.195/.321. Valencia, if you can believe it, is 9-12 off Price and has walked three times. That is an .800 on-base percentage. Morse has faced Price six times and hit a home run once, so basically whatever.

Neither the Rays nor the Orioles have showed much like they want to win a wild card spot before now. They could destroy each other's chances this weekend, or one of them could bury the other. Here's hoping the O's are still standing and holding the shovel at the end of the series.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES TAMPA BAY RAYS
Manny Machado (R) - 3B David DeJesus (L) - LF
Adam Jones (R) - CF Desmond Jennings (R) - CF
Chris Davis (L) - 1B Ben Zobrist (S) - 2B
Danny Valencia (R) - DH Evan Longoria (R) - 3B
Matt Wieters (S) - C Wil Myers (R) - DH
J.J. Hardy (R) - SS Matt Joyce (L) - RF
Nick Markakis (L) - RF James Loney (L) - 1B
Michael Morse (R) - LF Jose Molina (R) - C
Brian Roberts (S) - 2B Yunel Escobar (R) - SS

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