Some thoughts about the Orioles' series finale Thursday night against the Boston Red Sox and their upcoming weekend series against the New York Yankees (33-26) at Camden Yards:
-- The Orioles truly needed to make a statement this week as they returned to a heavy schedule of divisional competition. They've been treading water in the division for weeks while the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays have been rolling, so the three-game sweep of the Red Sox was a child of necessity. The Orioles now have won six of seven games to keep pace and push the Red Sox further into last place. So they've got that going for them.
-- The struggling offense appears to be emerging from a recent funk that, if not for a very consistent performance by the starting rotation and some terrific relief work, could have sunk the club in the standings.
-- Manny Machado, Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones hit homers out of the top three slots in the lineup against Red Sox starter Wade Miley, who got so frustrated that he blew up at manager John Farrell when he was removed from the game. Can't imagine he thought he had a legitimate complaint after getting hammered for three innings.
-- The Orioles figured to be strapped after Brian Matusz started his eight-game suspension and left them to play with just a 24-man roster, but the bullpen has been so efficient of late that it hasn't been a big problem so far.
-- Orioles relievers pitched 3 1/3 innings and gave up one run on three hits Thursday. Chaz Roe allowed a home run to struggling Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, but you can call that a going-away present for Big Papi, who had managed just one single in the series up to that point and was benched Wednesday.
-- The competition certainly gets stiffer starting tonight, when Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3) faces Michael Pineda (7-2) in the series opener against the Yankees, whose seven-game winning streak ended with a loss to the Nationals on Wednesday. Bud Norris (2-4) faces CC Sabathia (3-7) on Saturday, and presumably, rookie Mike Wright (2-1) will face Adam Warren (4-4) on Sunday afternoon.
-- With the Orioles trailing the Yankees by four games, they need to win this series to continue tightening up the AL East standings.