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If the Orioles don’t win the AL East, they will have tough competition for the wild card

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The Orioles have fallen into third place in the AL East. Unless they can catch back up, they’re going to have to hold a wild card spot. What does the competition look like?

For a whole lot of the 2016 season, the Orioles have been atop the American League East. For much of the time they were out of first place, they were in second, within just a game. They now find themselves only two games out but trailing both the Blue Jays and the Red Sox.

The good news is that two games isn’t very far out, and even if the O’s aren’t able to bridge that gap, they still find themselves in a wild card spot. Both of those are coming out of the East at the moment.

The bad news is that it’s a slim margin keeping the Orioles from a number of teams that are trying to charge ahead of them and into the postseason picture. The other bad news is that a one-game playoff on the road against the loser of a Jays/Red Sox dogfight is not what any of us want for the O’s, but that’s another day’s worry.

The Orioles need to win a lot to try to win the division. They’re still going to need to win almost as much to hold on to what they’ve got. Contra to the postulate of Bon Jovi set forth thirty years ago, it does make a difference if they make it or not.

In the American League, there are five above-.500 teams not currently in playoff spots. They range from a Mariners team that, at two games back, is practically breathing down the Orioles’ necks, to the Yankees, who, at five games out with with five teams to jump, have a lot of work to do but aren’t out of it just yet either.

Seattle Mariners

  • Record: 67-58
  • Games behind the Orioles: 2
  • Remaining: 18 games at home, 19 games on road; 20 vs. losers, 17 vs. winners
  • Since the All-Star break: 22-14

What’s good

Seattle has the second-best on-base percentage in the AL (.328). They’ve hit 175 home runs heading into Tuesday, third in the league. They have three players who are slugging over .500: Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz. Long-struggling catcher Mike Zunino is ripping the cover off the ball this year, batting .280/.396/.707 through 26 games. Wow!

What’s not good

The Mariners have two starting pitchers on the disabled list. They’re now relying on the likes of Wade LeBlanc and (sigh) Ariel Miranda. Their bullpen includes the likes of Tom Wilhelmsen and Arquimedes Caminero. Shoot, I want an Arquimedes on the Orioles.

Detroit Tigers

  • Record: 66-59
  • Games behind the Orioles: 3
  • Remaining: 20 games at home, 17 games on road; 21 vs. losers, 16 vs. winners
  • Since the All-Star break: 20-16

What’s good

Miguel Cabrera, at age 33, keeps on trucking with a .305/.380/.536 batting line. J.D. Martinez has been mashing since returning from a fractured elbow injury. Martinez entered Tuesday batting .441/.486/.809 in 18 August games. Justin Verlander, also at age 33, is looking more like his old self, and Michael Fulmer, received last July for Michael Cespedes is doing even better than that.

What’s not good

The Tigers bullpen is still the Tigers bullpen. Their closer is former failed Oriole Francisco Rodriguez. Mark Lowe has appeared in 45 games and is still on the roster despite a 7.99 ERA. I mean, wow. Shane Greene isn’t good. Justin Wilson isn’t good. Bruce Rondon isn’t good. All of those guys are in the Tigers bullpen.

Kansas City Royals

  • Record: 65-60
  • Games behind the Orioles: 4
  • Remaining: 20 games at home, 17 games on road; 17 vs. losers, 20 vs. winners
  • Since the All-Star break: 20-17

What’s good

The 2014 World Series losers renewed their pact with Satan, thus ensuring that no babies will be born in greater Kansas City, Missouri until the beginning of the 22nd century. That foul blood magic has paid for a 16-5 record in August, including nine wins in a row, despite...

What’s not good

The Royals do not have a single active batter with an OPS higher than .783. They rank last in the AL in home runs and walks drawn. They are one of only two teams in the AL to score fewer than 500 runs at this point in the season. Three-fifths of their starting rotation has an ERA of 4.46 or higher. They are even worse than the Orioles are on the road.

Houston Astros

  • Record: 65-61
  • Games behind the Orioles: 4.5
  • Remaining: 19 games at home, 17 games on road; 16 vs. losers, 20 vs. winners
  • Since the All-Star break: 17-20

Yes, the recent series against the O’s notwithstanding, this team is heading in the wrong direction. They will have ten of their final thirteen games against loser teams, though.

What’s good

Jose Altuve is building a dark horse AL MVP case. He is now OPSing 1.000, already has a career-high 20 home runs, and is basically the man in just about every way. Carlos Correa and George Springer are also doing great. Alex Bregman and Yulieski Gourriel could be the boost they need to get going somewhere.

What’s not good

Dallas Keuchel, recent O’s series again notwithstanding, has not put up a very vigorous defense of his Cy Young award from last year. They traded Josh Hader for Carlos Gomez (now DFA’d) which is probably even worse than trading Hader for Bud Norris. Their bullpen lefty, Tony Sipp, has a Brian Matusz-like 5.35 ERA and 1.663 WHIP. They have only one healthy starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.

New York Yankees

  • Record: 64-61
  • Games behind the Orioles: 5
  • Remaining: 19 games at home, 18 games on road; 7 vs. losers, 30 vs. winners
  • Since the All-Star break: 20-17

Come on, universe, can’t you just let me have ONE sub-.500 Yankees season? These guys sold at the trading deadline!

What’s good

Top prospect Gary Sanchez has arrived and he’s raking. Other top prospect Aaron Judge has arrived and is also raking just a bit less. Mark Teixeira’s contract is ending. Alex Rodriguez is gone. They received three top 100 prospects in baseball for trading Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Masahiro Tanaka is great. Some misguided guy wrote yesterday that Dellin Betances is even more deserving of the AL Cy Young than Zach Britton.

What’s not good

$26 million to Chase Headley through 2018. $26 million to Brett Gardner through 2018. $110 to Jacoby Ellsbury through 2020. They traded Ivan Nova to the Pirates and now he’s good. Michael Pineda is still in New York and has an ERA over 5. Nathan Eovaldi had to get Tommy John surgery. Luis Severino was supposed to be the pitcher of the future and had a 7.19 ERA in 12 games.

**

The Orioles, by the way, have only 17 games remaining at home and 20 on the road, including their final six games. They have just ten games against losers and 27 against winners, including their next eleven games and 14 of their next 17.

If the Orioles are going to do this thing - make the playoffs at all, I mean - they’re going to have to beat good teams on the road to do it. They can start by finding a way to win in Washington tonight when Wade Miley is starting. Well, here goes nothing.