BALTIMORE - The next week could be very telling for the Baltimore Orioles.
Their nine-game homestand ended with a 5-4 record, but taking two of three over the weekend against Oakland was a boost to their playoff hopes. Baltimore trailed the Athletics by two games for the second wild-card spot entering play Monday.
Cleveland is also in the mix, one-half game ahead of Baltimore in the wild-card chase entering Monday. New York is behind the Orioles, but only by 1.5 games before Monday's games.
Baltimore's week begins in Boston, the AL East leaders, for a three-game series beginning Tuesday. The Orioles then face the Yankees for three, and the Indians for three, before returning home Sept. 5 for a four-game series with Chicago.
"Every series is big from here on out," right fielder Nick Markakis said after Sunday's 10-3 win over the A's. "I thought we put ourselves in a pretty good situation to make a run at it, and that's all we were shooting for and asking for is to put yourself in good position at the end of the year to give yourself a chance.
"We've just got to carry this momentum on this next road trip. We've got a tough road trip, every team we're playing is in it. We've got a pretty hectic little schedule at the end of the year, and we all realize that."
Baltimore (70-59) was in a similar spot a year ago, sitting in third place in the division at 69-57. The Orioles went 24-12 the rest of the way, including a 9-2 stretch from Sept. 11-22, and earned a wild-card spot.
September features 28 games for Baltimore, and all but seven of them are against AL East rivals. The Orioles have five weeks of meaningful games to go, and they know it.
"That's basically why I'm playing baseball," Markakis said. "You want to be where everybody else isn't at the end of the year."