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baltimoresun.com

Sunday may be the most important day facing the Orioles

By Dan Connolly,The Baltimore Sun

2:03 AM EDT, September 9, 2012

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First, let’s get the procedural out of the way.

The Orioles lead the season series with the Yankees, 9-8 with one game to play Sunday.

If the Orioles win, they’ll take a one game lead in the American League East. But that’s not the most important thing about Sunday’s contest.

If the Yankees and Orioles are tied at the end of the season for the division, there will be a one-game tiebreaker to determine the AL East champion. The winner of the season series – which will be the Orioles if they win Sunday – would host that game. If the season series is tied, then the host city is determined by the team with the better divisional record.
  
The Orioles currently have a four-game lead over the Yankees in games played within the division, but obviously that’s not set yet. But the Orioles can guarantee home-field advantage in a one-game divisional playoff with the Yankees if they win Sunday.

The same scenario works if the Orioles and Yankees end up tied for the two wild card spots. The Orioles would host the one-game Wild Card playoff against the Yankees if they win Sunday. If they don’t win Sunday, then it will depend on what their division records are.

There are plenty of other machinations depending on various scenarios and multiple teams, but the bottom line is if the Yankees and Orioles tie for the division or the Wild Card, a one-game playoff would be in Baltimore if the Orioles win Sunday. If they lose Sunday, then we won’t know who will host such a game until the division records are final (or one club clinches a better record).

Got it. OK, now to part 2 of Sunday’s importance.

We’ll get a sense with Sunday’s lineup on what life will be like without Nick Markakis in right field and batting first.

The best guess is that Nate McLouth will be the club’s leadoff hitter. He’s done it 281 times in his big-league career and posted a .340 on-base percentage in those games.

Adam Jones might bat third or maybe he’ll stay at cleanup and J.J. Hardy will drop to third.

As for the outfield, McLouth may move from left to right and reserve Lew Ford would probably play the more time in left or right along with Xavier Avery and perhaps a host of others. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the Orioles juggled their 40-man roster one more time and brought Endy Chavez back because Chavez is a premium defender.

Again, Sunday should be very interesting.