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Tuesday night Orioles game thread: at Guardians, 6:10

The AL playoff race could change dramatically based on the outcome of this three-game series. Here goes nothing.

Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays
Can Spenser Watkins continue a great stretch for O’s starting pitchers?
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Orioles’ playoff hopes are about to face their toughest test yet.

Of the top five teams battling for the three AL wild card spots — the Rays, Mariners, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Twins — the O’s are the only one that has to play against a good team for the next three days.

The Rays get to enjoy an intrastate, interleague visit to the woeful Marlins (55-73). The Mariners travel to last-place Detroit (50-78). The Blue Jays are hosting the 55-74 Cubs, who predictably rolled over in last night’s opener, blowing a late 4-0 lead in an eventual Blue Jays walkoff win. And the Twins play at home against the cellar-dwelling Red Sox (62-67).

Bottom line: the Orioles can’t rely on any outside help to knock down their wild card opponents. The Birds are just going to have to keep winning as many games as possible and see what happens. Tonight they’ll do so against the Cleveland Guardians, a well-rounded team that is trying to hold on to the top spot in the AL Central.

If the Orioles’ rotation brings the thunder that it did to Houston over the weekend — when Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, and Austin Voth combined for a 0.83 ERA in their three dominant starts — then the O’s have a chance to steal another series win. Spenser Watkins, who tossed a quality start of his own his last time out, will look to keep the good times rolling.

The Birds, though, will need to put up a better offensive effort than they did against the Astros, when they scored just six runs across the three games. Brandon Hyde has moved the slumping Ryan Mountcastle out of the cleanup spot, dropping him to seventh in the lineup, the lowest he’s hit all season. His replacement Ramón Urías, though, doesn’t inspire confidence; he’s hitting just .194/.248/.301 in his last 30 games. Kyle Stowers is back in the lineup after being benched twice in a row against righties. Frustratingly, Terrin Vavra remains on the bench. He hasn’t played since making two bad throws on double play attempts five days ago.

Orioles lineup:

CF Cedric Mullins
C Adley Rutschman
DH Anthony Santander
3B Ramón Urías
LF Kyle Stowers
RF Austin Hays
1B Ryan Mountcastle
2B Rougned Odor
SS Jorge Mateo

RHP Spenser Watkins

Guardians lineup:

LF Steven Kwan
SS Amed Rosario
3B Jose Ramirez
1B Josh Naylor
RF Oscar Gonzalez
2B Andres Gimenez
DH Owen Miller
C Austin Hedges
CF Will Benson

RHP Cal Quantrill