Is there a pecking order developing as the final month of the regular season plays out?
Are the Orioles better than the Rays, and are the Athletics better than the Orioles?
Only if you put a lot of stock in their most recent games against each other.
The Orioles swept Tampa Bay at Camden Yards, flew to Oakland and promptly dropped the first two games of their series. Now they need Randy Wolf, who won one of his last 20 starts with the Brewers, to play the role of stopper.
Wolf has made two career starts against the A's, allowing four runs in 13 innings and holding them to a .209 average.
Jonny Gomes is 12-for-22 with a double and two home runs against the left-hander, so if you're looking to get a head start on filling out your lineup, there's one name for you.
Speaking of lineups, I'm waiting for the latest uproar if Robert Andino gets another start at second base today. I know how much that irritates some people around here.
Manager Buck Showalter is constantly asked about his lineups, so can we please retire the notion that reporters never hold him accountable for them? It's done so many times, it's become a running joke.
When I interview Showalter for his pregame segment on WBAL Radio, I'll frequently say, "I know how much you love lineup questions, so here's another one..." Showalter's eyes widen, a smile creases his face and he explains why Player X is batting in a certain spot. Then he'll field the same question in his session with reporters that immediately follows in the auxiliary clubhouse.
Showalter doesn't understand the interest and borderline obsession over his lineups, but I also find it curious that Omar Quintanilla has basically disappeared from this team. He's 0-for-26, his last hit being a home run against the Red Sox on Aug. 14, so it's not like a hot bat has been stashed away, but he's made only one start at second base since Aug. 31.
Ryan Flaherty was activated from the disabled list and given a nice seat on the bench. It's all Andino all of the time.
As far as we know, there's nothing physically wrong with Quintanilla. Showalter will tell you that he's looking to put a lineup on the field that gives the Orioles the best chance to win, and that Andino has done some good things for the team, especially in the field. He made it a point to single out Andino a few days ago for a sacrifice bunt that contributed to the winning run scoring.
Andino went 0-for-3 last night. He grounded into two double plays on Friday. He's got two hits in his last 24 at-bats and five in his last 43. But he continues to start.
Flaherty had hits in four straight games, including two home runs, before Quintanilla pushed him out of the lineup. Quintanilla was playing every day, much to the chagrin of some fans who wanted him banished to the bench once he cooled off. Now they're clamoring for him to replace Andino, or for Flaherty to do it.
Second base will have to be addressed again over the winter, with Brian Roberts recovering from hip surgery and his health a constant issue. In an ideal world, he'll be full-go on opening day, stay off the disabled list and stay atop the order. You just can't count on it.
None of the Orioles have faced right-hander Dan Straily, who starts today for Oakland. That includes Andino, Quintanilla and Flaherty.
One of them will start at second base.
Care to place any wagers?