Orioles are down but not out in chase for AL East

Hey, Orioleland, don't panic over back-to-back losses.

Yes, it's not a good thing, but when the Twins beat the Yankees after the Orioles had lost to Toronto last night, it kept the Birds within 1 1/2 games of the Yankees with seven to play. Yes, I'm saying there is still a chance.

The O's lead for the top wild card spot was cut to a half-game over Oakland, but they remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the next closest team, the Angels, for a playoff berth.

I think the large, large majority of fans are anxious about these games, but don't feel like the Orioles are playing tight, just that they played a poor game last night. It happens. The Orioles have bounced back all year from adversity, losses and injuries, and I expect them to again. They remain in solid position to get a wild card berth and are still very much in the hunt in the American League East.

I'll bet that Yankees' loss last night will serve to further motivate the Orioles in their pursuit of a division title.

Veteran Jim Thome is a good guy to ask about the Orioles' players and the clubhouse right now. Is the team holding up well under pennant race pressure? He's been in a few pennant races for a few teams in his career. How are things in the O's clubhouse these days?

"It's loose, but it's also very intense," Thome said. "You have to have the right mixture of young veterans, good manager, good coaches and we seem to have that. Everybody has done a tremendous job and you hope that continues. We still have work to do to get into the postseason."

Thome was asked about some of the younger players on the team. Can young guys press a bit in pressure situations?

"We don't ever think of that or talk about that," he said. "This is a time of year where maybe it's a new environment, but there are guys that thrive on the big moment and we've had that. I always say, 'You are not going to be the hero every time.' You might go 10 or 15 at-bats (hitless), then you get that one big hit in late September or October and you forget about the other 15.

"You can always do something - whether it's a defensive play, a big pitch, a big hit - that ultimately helps your club win and then you can be looked at as a guy that shined in postseason."

By the way, Thome was asked yet again yesterday if he plans to play next year and his answer was similar to what he has said a few times now.

"I'm focusing in on now and not worrying about next year. I don't really look ahead, just to today. Just enjoy the ride," he said.

So, O's fans, like Thome said, remember to enjoy this ride. The Orioles lost ground last night to Oakland and lost a day in their pursuit of New York. But tonight provides another game and another chance for the O's to shine.

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