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Game 127: Athletics (71-55) @ Orioles (68-58), 7:05

The latest crucial series for the Orioles opens on Friday night as the Athletics come in to Baltimore. Bud Norris takes on Dan Straily in the first game of the series.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Here is the latest of the Orioles ultimate showdowns of ultimate destiny. They flubbed their opportunity against the Rays by losing two out of three. Oakland is the team they are chasing in the standings - while also needing to pass Cleveland and ward off New York - so they need to win two out of three and preferably even sweep. If only they did sweeps. Regrettably, they do not have this tendency.

Dan Straily of the Athletics is not getting fantastic results so far this season, so the Orioles need to beat him, and whoever else they have to face. Straily has a 4.22 ERA, which is not so great, but the slash line of batters against him is .242/.311/.374. That's not so bad. He has a slightly better ERA on the road than at home, not expected for any Oakland pitcher given their cavernous home pitching environment. He has given up 12 home runs in 113 innings pitched, and seven of these have been hit by lefties.

Chris Davis, following on the heels of your pop star-like reception at a signing event in Columbia Friday afternoon, how about you go ahead and hit a home run or two off of this guy in your continuing chase for the American League home run record? That would be peachy.

Bud Norris gets the start for the Orioles. Can he be solid enough, which is all we really hope for from him? Will solid enough be enough to get the O's a win? You never know when the bats will go completely silent. The soft-tossing lefty has been scratched from Saturday's start. There is hope for a sweep, but the O's need to seize the moment. This is the time to be firing on all cylinders.

If they manage that in this series, their playoff hopes will survive another weekend. If not, then it'll probably still be a nice year, all things considered. It just could have been a lot nicer than this.

Nate McLouth - LF Coco Crisp - CF
Manny Machado - 3B Jed Lowrie - SS
Chris Davis - 1B Josh Donaldson - 3B
Adam Jones - CF Brandon Moss - 1B
Matt Wieters - C Yoenis Cespedes - LF
Nick Markakis - RF Seth Smith - RF
J.J. Hardy - SS Alberto Callaspo - DH
Ryan Flaherty - DH Eric Sogard - 2B
Brian Roberts - 2B Stephen Vogt - CF