The playoff chase moves to another city

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - It's time for the next leg of this two-city road trip.

I'm grateful to have made it out of LaGuardia Airport. I had reached a point where I intended to find a comfortable place in the security line to blog and tweet for the next four days.

Outfielder Nate McLouth isn't in Triple-A Norfolk's lineup tonight. He can opt out of his contract tomorrow and the Orioles want to keep him.

Could he be joining them in St. Pete?

While we've been kicking around ideas for the rotation, it's worth noting, as some of you have done, that Derek Lowe's availability could intrigue the Orioles. The Indians designated him for assignment yesterday and executive vice president Dan Duquette traded for him back in 1997, along with catcher Jason Varitek, for Mariners reliever Heathcliff Slocumb, who later pitched (poorly) for the Orioles.

Yeah, that one was pretty lopsided.

Lowe is 39, and he's 8-10 with a 5.52 ERA in 21 starts with the Indians. Not real enticing on the surface. The Orioles got a good look at him on July 20, when they roughed him up for nine runs over three innings. He allowed seven hits, walked five and served up two home runs. The game should have been rated NC-17.

Lowe has one win since June 1 and two since tossing a six-hit shutout against the Twins on May 15. He owns a 11.94 ERA and 2.31 WHIP in the second half, and the numbers don't get much better as you go farther back. He posted a 2.27 ERA in April, a 4.30 ERA in May, a 6.49 ERA in June and a 10.03 ERA in July. But Duquette has a fondness for Lowe and the right-hander could use a change of scenery.

Maybe he just needs some tweaking. Maybe he needs his retirement papers. You never know.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are 55-50 and trail the Yankees by 6 1/2 games in the American League East. They're 1 1/2 back in the wild card race. Yes, they're still in it to win it.

Bovada places the odds of the Orioles winning the World Series this year at 55/1. Here's the list, if you're interested:

New York Yankees 19/4
Texas Rangers 5/1
Los Angeles Angels 15/2
Washington Nationals 9/1
Cincinnati Reds 10/1
Detroit Tigers 10/1
San Francisco Giants 12/1
Atlanta Braves 14/1
Los Angeles Dodgers 14/1
Chicago White Sox 20/1
St. Louis Cardinals 22/1
Boston Red Sox 25/1
Pittsburgh Pirates 25/1
Tampa Bay Rays 25/1
Oakland Athletics 35/1
Arizona Diamondbacks 45/1
Toronto Blue Jays 45/1
Baltimore Orioles 55/1
Cleveland Indians 75/1
Philadelphia Phillies 75/1
Miami Marlins 90/1
New York Mets 100/1
Milwaukee Brewers 225/1
Minnesota Twins 500/1
Seattle Mariners 500/1
Kansas City Royals 600/1
Chicago Cubs 750/1
San Diego Padres 750/1
Colorado Rockies 1000/1
Houston Astros 1000/1

Manager Buck Showalter spoke earlier this year of the tendency to wait until August to check the standings. Well, that month has arrived.

"I never put limitations or restrictions on what a team can do or not do," Showalter said before yesterday's 12-3 loss to the Yankees. "I just want us to be as good as we're capable of being, and I felt comfortable about this team coming out because of the type of people we had. You're always going to seek your level in this game, good or bad. I've said many times it's a great exposure of strengths and weaknesses.

"There's no other sport like it that plays so many games. Anything you have will show up, strength and weakness, if you just give a baseball season time. You just try to stay away from those deep chasms, shorten the bad times and stretch out the good ones.

"There's a consistency, there's a maturity that comes... Let's face, it, we've got a lot of young guys who have been exposed to a lot of competition at this level. The experience, they're starting to grip the reality of the length of the season and how you do have to have a certain mentality, even though we get frustrated. There are some tough plane rides and there are some tough days, but the great thing is there's a game the next day to change that feeling. That's the good thing about baseball.

"There are many days when I've said, 'Gosh, I'm glad we have a game the next day so we don't have to sit on that one for six days.' There also are times when I've said, 'I'd like to sit on that one.'"

The Orioles are enthused about playing meaningful games with two months left in the season. They won't complain about the competition, the travel, the heat, whatever is thrown in their path.

"It's fun," said Adam Jones. "To really be playing games at this point in the year, this is my fifth year here and this is my first time going into August that these games really do matter. It's been fun. They're important.

"We know really what's at stake now. We got a day off and we'll come out Friday in Tampa and play the game the way it's supposed to be, because every game, all 60 or whatever we have remaining, they're all important. We need to take every inning, every pitch, like it's the last one."

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