KANSAS CITY, MO. — Buck Showalter doesn't know how many wins it will take to win the American League East this year. The Orioles manager said he had a recent discussion about it, but couldn't come up with a ballpark figure.
"Maybe 90?" Showalter said. "I don't know. I don't think so."
Even though the Orioles open their four-game series in Kansas City tonight winners of seven of their last eight, the two teams in front of them are just as hot, and because of that they're still 3 ½ games behind division-leading Boston.
The Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees this weekend, including Sunday night's 8-7 walkoff win in 11 innings. Orioles fans can thank Mike Napoli for that one. He hit two homers, including the game winner.
The Rays, who are two games ahead of the Orioles in second place, are sizzling. Tampa Bay is 15-2 this month.
But with the Rays opening a four-game series tonight in Boston, the Orioles finally have an opportunity to move up the standings if they can build on their first road sweep of the season in Texas. Right now, the Rays and Orioles are sitting in the two AL Wild Card spots, and the Orioles can thank their play this weekend in Arlington for that.
Meanwhile, the struggling Yankees have fallen 3 ½ games back of Baltimore for that second Wild Card spot. Texas is 1 ½ games back and Cleveland is 3 ½ back. If the Orioles can continue to get this kind of starting pitching – Chris Tillman gave the O's their seventh quality start in eight games – they will remain in the hunt.
"You know when they say it's not about then money? It's about the money," Showalter quipped. "They say it's not about the pitching. It's about the pitching."
Darren O'Day got the save last night with closer Jim Johnson unavailable. And even though the bullpen hasn't been overworked because of sparkling starting efforts, Showalter said it is always difficult to get the relievers back into a groove after the break.
"It could take us through the next series to get through it," Showalter said.
Johnson had thrown 41 pitches over the first two games of the Texas series, so he's seen enough work so far. But Troy Patton, T.J. McFarland and Jairo Asencio have yet to pitch in the second half. In some ways, it's a good problem to have. It means you're not on speed dial to Triple-A Norfolk trying to get an extra arm – which had been the case at times earlier this season.