Tonight begins a stretch where the Orioles play seven straight games and 11 of the next 14 against the White Sox and Yankees, a pair of division leaders.
Chicago comes to town tonight leading the AL Central by 2 1/2 games over Detroit with a record of 71-55 and six wins in a row. The Chisox just swept the Yankees and Seattle, and are 16 games over .500 for the first time since Sept. 7, 2010.
Chicago’s last four wins have all been by one run and the White Sox are 15-4 in their last 19 one-run games.
Chicago has the best record in the AL since May 17, winning 54 of 88 games.
.614 - Chicago White Sox (54-34)
.600 - New York Yankees (54-36)
.573 - Texas Rangers (51-38)
“Their pitching is really good,” manager Buck Showalter said today of the Sox. “The four starters we’re seeing here, the runs are going to be a premium. (Chris) Sale, our guy said, is pitching as well as anyone in baseball right now. (Jose) Quintana is the one that ... when you get that fourth or fifth guy pitching as well as he is right now, it really matches you up well against the other teams.
“I think the shortstop (Alexei Ramirez) is one of the most underrated players in the league. Of course, (Paul) Konerko and (Adam) Dunn do what they do. Konerko is one of the top five right-handed hitters in baseball. You’re always looking at the lineup card wondering how many more times he’s going to hit.”
Chicago ranks seventh in the AL in team ERA at 3.98 but is tied with Detroit and Tampa Bay for the league lead with 72 quality starts.
The Sox are fifth in the league in runs and second in the AL with 169 homers. Chicago is the only team in baseball with four players with 20-plus homers (Dunn 38, A.J. Pierzynski 23, Konerko 21 and Alex Rios 20) and Dayan Viciedo has 19. Dunn is trying to become the first Sox player to lead the AL in homers since Dick Allen in 1972 and 1974. He is on pace for 49 homers, which would tie the franchise mark set by Albert Belle in 1998.
Keep this in mind about the Orioles: They are a combined 8-7 this year against the Sox and Yankees. Since losing their first four games this year against New York, they are a combined 8-3 vs. those teams.
What is your take?: How will the Orioles do in this series against the AL Central leaders and in this stretch of 11 games in the next 14 vs. first-place clubs?