Orioles face challenging stretch, again

Stop me if you have read this before.

OK, don't stop. Because you have read this before. About five times before.


But this next stretch is a real test for the Orioles. Maybe the most important of this surprising season. I know, I'll pause to duck the flying fruit.

The Orioles keep passing tests. Or they fail them and we expect them to go away and they rally again.


This past eight-game road trip to Minnesota and Cleveland didn't look particularly daunting. Minnesota is struggling and the Indians had been playing over their heads in the first half. But so had the Orioles.

And, with a patchwork rotation that was missing four starters, they dropped four of their first five to begin the second half. That included two ugly losses to the lowly Twins.

Then the Orioles snap off five of six to post a winning road trip. Most important, they have delivered six straight quality starts, the most in one string this season.

But now, ahem, comes a real test. They play nine straight without a break – six at home – against the Tampa Bay Rays. Oakland A's and the New York Yankees. They get their first day off in 20 games and then have to face the Rays for three more.

All three opponents are good. All have strong starting pitching. The Yankees lead the AL East. The A's and Rays are battling the Orioles in the Wild Card hunt.

It's an extremely important challenge. It could determine whether the Orioles remain in playoff contention. This may be the most crucial time of the season so far.

But, then again, you have heard that before.