Anthony Amobi: The next few weeks may make or break the Orioles

On Sundays, I usually have lunch with some friends before the game at one of the fine Baltimore establishments across the street from Camden Yards.

Before this season, the topic of conversation would have centered on what the Ravens and the other teams in the NFL would be doing considering the Hall of Fame game (a preseason contest) was on yesterday.

The topic only came up only once that day. This has been a huge change since last season.

However, we are worried about one Baltimore team: the Orioles.

As of today, the Orioles are 10 games over .500 at 61-51. That's pretty good. However, unlike last season, when the Birds seemingly came out of nowhere to end up in the playoffs, more is expected from the 2013 roster.

Instead of looking at things with rose-colored glasses and hoping for the best, we are now asking ourselves this: will the next week make or break the Orioles?

After their loss Sunday, I'm not too sure.

Yes, there's a lot of baseball left. However, the Orioles needed to take two out of three from the Seattle Mariners. That obviously did not happen due to their loss on Sunday.

This time around, it may be very, very tough for Baltimore to grab a playoff spot now - however, not impossible.

The Orioles are now 6 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. They trail the upstart Cleveland Indians - who are surprising the baseball establishment - by 1 1/2 games for the second and final wild card spot in the American League.

At this point, it could be safe to say that the Orioles may be in line for only the second wild card spot. Sadly, taking the division will be a monumental task if the Red Sox or Rays don't slump - or fall into a collapse.

The Texas Rangers are ahead of Baltimore by one game in the wild card race. The Kansas City Royals - who are relevant this season now with a 56-52 record - are 9-1 in their last 10 games and are 4 1/2 games back in the wild card hunt.

While I think that Cleveland and Kansas City may fade, they could also be for real. Let's not forget what many thought about the Orioles last season.

There are 50 games left in the season and the Orioles have been playing average baseball - about a .500 clip - since June.

If the Orioles are to end up in the playoffs for the second consecutive year, they will probably at least need to win 90 games, if not more. The offense has to do better and find ways to score runs aside from the longball or extra-base hit.

And yes, the starting pitching has to take its game to another level. I'm not sure if the acquisition of Bud Norris from the Houston Astros will be enough for the Orioles to get into the playoffs, but they will have to make do with what they have.

With this current homestand done, the Orioles are now on the road for nine games on the West Coast against the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The first two teams are in the middle of disappointing seasons. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks are trying to keep pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who seem to now be running away with the National League West.

After they play the Diamondbacks on the road, the Orioles come home and face the Colorado Rockies, another sub-.500 team.

Then things don't get easy. In fact, the final two weeks of August are a grind.

The Orioles have to then face the Tampa Bay Rays, followed by the Oakland Athletics, and then go on the road against the Boston Red Sox followed by the New York Yankees to finish off the month.

They have to continue taking advantage of teams during their "soft" portion of the schedule. If they don't, the road to the postseason will only be that much more difficult.

Anthony Amobi blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O's appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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