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Where the Orioles stand after Friday's games

The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK -- The Orioles won’t have much time to think about their 8-5 loss to the Yankees Friday night because they’ll try to salvage the series here in the Bronx in a matter of hours in a 1:05 p.m. start this afternoon.

With Oakland’s late-night win over the Rays, the A’s took over the top AL Wild Card spot, which means that the Orioles now trail Tampa Bay by four games for the second wild card spot as well as second place in the AL East. But Cleveland and the Yankees are just a ½ game back of the Orioles in the wild card race.

If the Yankees beat the Orioles this afternoon, Baltimore would drop into fourth place in the AL East for just the second day all season and the first time since June 8.

There are 29 games left in the regular season, and while there’s still plenty of baseball left to be played and no one is running away with the playoff spots, the Orioles are backing themselves into a corner.

Let’s face it, this nine-game road trip to Boston, New York and Cleveland – playing three teams the O’s are competing against for playoff berths – is the most important swing of the season. The head-to-head games are magnified, and there’s little room for error.

There’s already little room for error. It’s getting to the point where series wins might not be enough to make the postseason. Let’s say you need 90 wins – a popular benchmark – to make the playoffs. The Orioles would need to go 19-10 the rest of the way to reach that mark. That’s basically two out of every three games.

Miguel Gonzalez’s outing on Friday night, in which he allowed a season-high seven earned runs over four plus innings of work, was a disappointing one.

Gonzalez was nearly flawless for 3 2/3 innings, but wouldn’t be able to record an out in the fifth. His fortune changed dramatically.

Over the first four innings of starts, Gonzalez entered the night having pitched to a 2.66 ERA, but that mark rises to 4.69 in the fifth inning and 6.38 in the sixth inning. Gonzalez also holds opposing hitters to a .219 batting average during the first time through the order, but that number skyrockets to .289 during the third time in the order.

On Friday, the Yankees scored five runs off Gonzalez in the fifth inning.  

“I know he's really frustrated, but that one inning really got away from us a little bit,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But we battled right back there and had some people on base. … Our guys kept grinding and we'll be ready tomorrow."

But this was a game the Orioles desperately needed to set the tone of the series. That’s why Gonzalez was pitching Friday instead of starting Tuesday and being able to pitch on extra rest on Sunday.

With another loss here in New York this weekend, the Orioles will have dropped their seventh series in their past 12. They are currently 18-19 since the all-star break. That’s hardly the caliber of a playoff contender.

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