An O's-Yankees showdown for first place is just what everyone expected, right?

Isn't this weekend just what was expected? The Orioles and Yankees playing on Labor Day weekend in Yankee Stadium with first place in the American League East on the line?

The Orioles have a good chance to challenge the Yankees.

The Orioles have more pitching depth, a stronger defense and a better offense with Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy heating up. The Yankees are injured and struggling in their last 45 games. Their offense misses injured Alex Rodriguez, who is going to be out another 10 days, maybe more. First baseman Mark Teixeira is sidelined with a calf injury. Curtis Granderson is slumping. Robinson Cano can't hit with runners in scoring position. Russell Martin struggles to hit .200. Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher have been the only dependable hitters during August.

The bullpen is going to miss closer Mariano Rivera during the final month. The rotation is good at the top with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, but can Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia and David Phelps, a reliever-turned-starter, carry the back end? Also, Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte are injured, and Pettitte is recovering slower than expected.

Other thoughts:

* Randy Wolf hasn't pitched well this season, but it is a good idea for the Orioles to add his experience for the final month. It's not that they need him, but the depth is nice in case someone gets injured. Plus, if he happens to pitch as he did last year with the Brewers, especially as he did in the postseason, the Orioles are going to have a steal.

* The Nationals' Drew Storen has had a tough season recovering from injury, but he looks like he's coming into form at the right time. Like outfielder Michael Morse earlier in the season, Storen didn't spend enough time rehabilitating in the minor leagues, so he was still in spring-training mode when he made his first few appearances in the majors. Now, he looks more like he did last season.

* Could there be a tighter race for AL Manager of the Year? The top three candidates are the Orioles' Buck Showalter, Oakland's Bob Melvin and the White Sox's Robin Ventura. Ventura has never managed, but his team is challenging the Tigers. Showalter and Melvin have nearly identical cases. Showalter, however, got help from his general manager, Dan Duquette, who acquired quality to win. Melvin's front office stripped the A's down and admitted they were rebuilding.

* We've been waiting all season for the Tigers to break out and take over the AL Central. In the final month, Detroit plays the White Sox and Royals seven times each, the Twins and Indians six games each. The Twins and the Indians are the two worst teams in the AL. If the Tigers can't make the postseason, they have only themselves to blame.

* Something tells me that Seattle's Felix Hernandez is going to end up with another AL Cy Young Award. He's the fourth AL pitcher since 1989, joining Bert Blyleven, David Wells and Roger Clemens, to have five shutouts in one season. King Felix is the third pitcher in history to have three 1-0 shutouts in a calendar month, joining Carl Hubbell in 1933 and Dick Rudolph in 1916.

* The Orioles' Jim Johnson should get some votes for AL Cy Young, but with a list of starters having Cy Young seasons, it is unlikely that he'll win the award. He might have a better chance of getting AL MVP because where would the Orioles be without him? By the way, the BBWAA, the organization that gives postseason awards, has talked about coming up with an award for relievers so that voters don't have to choose between starters and relievers. Not sure if another award is a good idea or not.

* There's no guarantee that the Dodgers are going to win the NL West, even with all the new players they have. It takes a while to develop cohesiveness on a team, and the Giants are strong. But there's no doubt that with Dee Gordon and Carl Crawford at the top of their lineup next season, they are going to be an offensive force.

* The Nationals' Bryce Harper is in uncharted water. He's the first teenager to play in at least 100 games with a team that's in contention. Miguel Cabrera came close. He was 20 when he helped the 2003 Marlins win the World Series. He hit 12 home runs in 87 regular season games and then hit four postseason home runs while averaging .333 in the NLCS win against the Cubs.

Thanks for reading.