The importance of AL East games, plus another national writer likes the O's

The so-called experts have it figured out that there are some areas where the 2013 Orioles can't duplicate the 2012 version. Areas like their 29-9 record in one-run games and 16-2 record in extra inning.

The experts might actually have that one right for a change.

Another area that may be hard for the Orioles to duplicate is the 2012 record of 43-29 and .597 winning percentage in American League East games. You have to go back to 1980 to find an O's club that had a higher win percentage in division games. It was 49-29 for a .628 percentage then.

The Orioles won nine of their 12 road series against the AL East in 2012, going 21-15 in division road games. The Orioles were 7-2 at Boston, 6-3 at New York, and went 4-5 at both Tampa Bay and Toronto.

All those were pretty strong numbers and provide something to shoot for in what could be an even tougher division race this year, with five teams that some feel could play .500 or better ball.

If it's possible, every division game seems critical all year and especially early on as the teams jockey for position in the standings. These division games provide the only chances for the Orioles to gain a win and also put a loss on a rival's record all in one night.

The head-to-head AL East play could be more important than ever this year.

In this article, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com really likes the O's chances this year. He writes:

"The Orioles are the same team as last year, only healthier and better. And maybe with a chip on their shoulder ... They have a nice nucleus, youth and a great manager. And they are for real."

He also points out the Orioles talked about adding some key players in a trade this winter and he writes that they talked with the Mets about pitcher R.A. Dickey. Heyman said the Mets sought Kevin Gausman and Manny Machado.

That one had to leave Dan Duquette laughing hysterically.

In an exhibition game last night, the Orioles' Triple-A Norfolk team beat Norfolk State 9-2 at Harbor Park. Freddy Garcia pitched the first three innings and did not allow a run. The 36-year-old right-hander, in a tuneup for his first start Sunday, allowed three singles with no walks and four strikeouts.

Russ Canzler and Yamaico Navarro each had three hits to lead the Tides' 14-hit attack, while Jonathan Schoop and Chris Dickerson each added a single and a double.

The attendance was 7,878 in Norfolk and all proceeds from the contest benefited the Norfolk State baseball program. Now the Tides get set to host Durham on Thursday night in the season opener, with Zach Clark pitching for the Tides against Chris Archer.

At Perdue Stadium last night, Single-A Delmarva blanked Salisbury University 3-0 in what has now become their annual exhibition game. Five Shorebirds pitchers combined on a three-hitter. Brady Wager and Josh Hader each pitched two scoreless frames. Mychal Givens pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning.

Nik Balog and Torsten Boss had RBI singles, while Wynston Sawyer added an RBI double for Delmarva. The Shorebirds' opener is Thursday at home against Hagerstown with Parker Bridwell on the mound.


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