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The Orioles' upcoming three-game series in Detroit is critical on many levels. The Orioles go into Comerica Park with a one-game lead over the Tigers for the second American League wild-card spot, so they have the opportunity to distance themselves from their closest contender, but also can lose their hold on the spot just as quickly.

Given how packed the playoff race is, this is also the time to look at how teams have matched up head-to-head in case there is a tiebreaker scenario after 162 games.

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If teams are tied for the second wild-card spot at the end of the regular season, head-to-head record will determine which team would host a play-in game (which would lead to another de facto play-in game, the wild-card showdown to reach the final four in the American League).

The Orioles won three of four games against the Tigers back in May, so they would win the season series against Detroit with just one win. Obviously, they want to win more than that to keep possession of the wild-card spot.

But still, they don't want to put themselves in a potential position of leaving New York – where their final regular season series is – for Detroit for a Game 163, and then possibly turn around and play a wild-card game in Toronto or Boston the next day.

That's quite a gauntlet to go through, especially given the road woes this team had faced. Even after taking two of three in Tampa Bay this week, the Orioles are still seven games under .500 on the road (31-38).

Heading into Thursday, with 23 Orioles games remaining, there are three teams within 2 ½ games of the second wild-card spot, including the surging Yankees, who are coming off three wins against Toronto at Yankee Stadium. Houston is in between Detroit and New York, lurking just two games back.

There's no doubt the Orioles are scoreboard watching. After Monday's afternoon game in Tampa Bay, a number of players stayed in the visiting clubhouse, eyes transfixed on televisions.

There are plenty of teams to keep tabs on. After finishing their series against Cleveland tonight, the Astros host the Cubs and the Yankees host the Rays. Even the Royals, who were four games back, and the Mariners (five games back) remain in the mix.

Any three-game series can take on great magnitude this time of the year, and this weekend in Detroit is huge for the Orioles.

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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