For the Baltimore Orioles it has been “Crush time” virtually all season. Now, it’s crunch time.
The Orioles have three series, 10 games, left against teams outside of the American League East. The rest of their 26 games will come against AL East foes.
On Friday the Orioles (68-58) will begin one of those final three series as they play host to the Oakland Athletics. The A’s (71-55) currently sit in sole possession of the second AL Wild Card spot — the O’s trail them by three games.
The month of August has had some rough patches for the Orioles who are 9-9 this month. They’ve endured a West Coast road trip where they started 4-1 only to be swept in walk-off fashion in three straight games by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Orioles returned home and took two of three games against the Colorado Rockies, only to lose a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The O’s are now 5.5 games out of first place in the AL East, trailing the Boston Red Sox who the Orioles will play another nine times, including a home series to end the regular season. So they’re still in the race.
But now is the time to kick things into gear.
The Orioles will send Bud Norris to the mound on Friday. In his four starts in an Orioles uniform, Norris is 3-0. His only loss as an Oriole came in a relief effort against Arizona on Aug. 14. For the season, Norris is 9-10 with a 3.93 ERA. His last appearance against the A’s came on July 24 as a member of the Houston Astros, he lasted 6.1 innings and allowed three runs on just four hits including a home run by John Jaso.
Chris Tillman will get the start in the second game of the series. Tillman has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the O’s this season. He is 14-4 with a 3.79 ERA and Saturday’s start will be his fourth since his last win. Twice on the West Coast trip Tillman was the pitcher of record when Jim Johnson blew the save to send the game into extra innings. Tillman last pitched against Oakland on April 27, when he threw six innings allowing two runs on seven hits.
The Orioles have yet to announce a starter for the final game of the series on Sunday.
This year the Orioles are 3-1 against Oakland; those four games were in April at O.co Coliseum.