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Orioles Game 102 Game Thread: at Blue Jays, 7:07

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

If there is such a thing as a must-win game, it's surely not a game that is played in late July. However, the weekend's series is nonetheless very important to the Orioles - and the Blue Jays who are chasing them - because the outcome of the series will set a new direction for the AL East as August arrives.

If the Orioles get swept this weekend, they're out of first. If they lose two out of three, they hold on by a half game. If they somehow win the series, then they can return to Baltimore and head into the trade deadline feeling more confident about what they're doing. Three games shouldn't matter that much, but hey, perception becomes reality sooner or later.

The Jays certainly think it's important. They lined up their starting rotation to make sure that Marco Estrada, who's very good this year, starts the key first game against the O's. Yes, they WANTED to send up a homer-prone right-handed pitcher to face the Orioles. Maybe that will work out. It's interesting they got psyched out enough to twist around their rotation a bit. It's good if the Orioles are seen as a threat. Not so good if they lose.

The only way the Orioles can have a July above .500 is if they sweep this weekend's series. If they win two out of three, it'll be a .500 July. Less than that and July is their first losing month. Things are rough right now, what with seemingly the entire heart of the lineup slumping. That'll improve eventually, probably, but it'd really be for the best if it starts to improve tonight as they play the second place team in the division.

Today's Lineups

Adam Jones - CF Jose Bautista - RF
Hyun Soo Kim - LF Josh Donaldson - 3B
Manny Machado - 3B Edwin Encarnacion - DH
Chris Davis - 1B Michael Saunders - LF
Mark Trumbo - RF Troy Tulowitzki - SS
Matt Wieters - C Russell Martin - C
Jonathan Schoop - 2B Justin Smoak - 1B
Pedro Alvarez - DH Kevin Pillar - CF
J.J. Hardy - SS Darwin Barney - 2B
Kevin Gausman - RHP Marco Estrada - RHP