Orioles thoughts on AL East and wild-card playoff race

Monday was a pretty productive off day for the Orioles since both the Rays and Yankees lost. So the Orioles head into tonight's series opener in Boston trailing the Rays by four games for second place in the AL East, as well as the first AL Wild Card spot. They also got a little extra distance on the Yankees, who are now two games behind them in the division.

But an Oakland win over Detroit put the A's 2 ½ games over the Orioles for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Indians are two back of Oakland. The Orioles play three in Cleveland next week.


With 33 games in 34 days to end the regular season, Orioles manager Buck Showalter used the two off days the past week to align his pitching rotation for the long haul, so he's relying a lot on matchups.

Tonight's starter, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, is 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA in four career starts against the Red Sox. He's 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA in three starts at Fenway Park.

** Down on the farm, Orioles pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez threw eight shutout innings and tied a career high with eight strikeouts in Double-A Bowie's 11-0 win over Binghamton. Rodriguez allowed just two hits, walked none and struck out five.

Rodriguez has been pretty spectacular over his past three starts at Bowie, allowing just one earned run over 19 innings with 20 strikeouts and just two walks. That's exactly what you want to see out of a young pitcher, him getting stronger as the season winds down.

"It's encouraging that he is in our dugout," Baysox manager Gary Kendall said after the game. "Because down the road he is going to be a big plus for this organization."

** Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia hit a grand slam as part of a five-RBI night in Triple-A Norfolk's 13-1 win over Gwinnett. His slam came with two outs in the fourth inning off former Orioles right-hander Freddy Garcia, who was just traded to the Braves last week.

While Urrutia didn't show much power during his brief stint in the majors – 14 of his 15 hits were singles – Monday's slam was his ninth homer in 288 pro at-bats this season.

Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada allowed 11 baserunners (nine hits and two walks) but allowed just one run over eight innings, striking out six. He's allowed one or fewer runs in four of his last five starts.

With the Tides' win Monday, Norfolk now leads the International League Wild-Card race by ½ game over Rochester with eight games to go.

While we are on the subject of Norfolk, here is today's story taking a look at the top candidates for call up once rosters expand on Sept. 1.

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