Orioles already facing key test in quest to winning season

After starting with three straight victories over the Minnesota Twins, the Orioles failed their first test of the young season by being swept by the New York Yankees at Camden Yards.

They played competitively with the Bronx Bombers -- taking two games to extra innings before losing -- but that won't help the team in the standings. Wins and losses are what count. Right now, the Orioles have three of each.


Now they'll need to get ready for the next obstacle -- an extended 10-game road trip against the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels.

With that lengthy venture away from Camden Yards looming, I know there are a lot of Orioles fans out there thinking that today is the last day in the 2012 season that the team will see the .500 mark.

And, yes, it's a very possible scenario. Following the sweep by the Yankees, the Orioles could bury themselves in the basement of the American League East very quickly if they don't rebound on the road.

The Blue Jays sit in second place in the division, behind the Tampa Bay Rays, with a 4-2 record after the first two series of the season. They took two out of three games on the road over the Cleveland Indians before opening up their 2012 home schedule with two wins and a loss against the Boston Red Sox. The series would have been a sweep, but Toronto's new closer, Sergio Santos, surrendered three runs in the ninth inning of the first game. The 28-year-old right-hander already has two blown saves in 2012.

It's worth noting that the Blue Jays haven't had much offensive production from right fielder Jose Bautista through the first six games. The 31-year-old is batting .174 and he is 1-for-19 with no RBIs after collecting three hits on Opening Day. Bautista hit 97 home runs over the past two seasons for Toronto. After slugging nine longballs against the Orioles in 2010, he only had two against them last year. The Orioles hope his power outage and early season struggles continue beyond this weekend.

The White Sox dropped two of three to the Texas Rangers before sweeping a rain-shortened two-game series over the Indians during their season-opening road trip. They'll host the Detroit Tigers for three games before the Orioles head to the Windy City. Veterans Paul Konerko andA.J. Pierzynski have stood out for Chicago in the first five games. Konerko is batting .450 with three doubles and five RBIs, while Pierzynski has a pair of home runs and six RBIs.

In 95 career games against the Orioles, Konerko is batting .300 with 20 home runs and 65 RBIs. He hit .310 with two home runs and six RBIs against them in 2011. A lifetime .285 hitter in 15 major league seasons, Pierzynski's batting average in 66 career games against the Orioles is over 40 points higher at .329. He batted .419 with two home runs and seven RBIs in eight games against the Orioles last season.

Despite the offseason additions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson that made them one of the preseason favorites to win the World Series, the Angels stumbled to start the year.

They lost two out of three games to the Kansas City Royals before dropping two more against the Twins, including Thursday afternoon's matchup in which they led, 6-0, after 4 1/2 innings. They'll play three games on the road against the Yankees and host the Oakland Athletics for four games before the Orioles travel to Los Angeles.

Six or more wins during this stretch would keep fans optimistic for a little bit longer in 2012  -- and it would give the Orioles a winning record when they come back to town to face the Blue Jays on April 24. Judging by the level of competition, four or five wins is probably a realistic goal, but anything less than four victories will set fans up for another disastrous year in Charm City.



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