With eight wins in nine games, Orioles have stepped up their play

Suddenly, the biggest problems the Orioles seem to have are getting playing time for bench players and getting some innings for relievers.

These are issues they can deal with.

The Orioles are playing some of their best baseball of the year now with eight wins in the last nine games. The offense, the rotation and the defense have all come together at the same time and it's a beautiful sight for those all over Birdland to see.

It is almost like the Orioles realized the time had come to take their play to another level with the stretch run almost here. In eight more games, two-thirds of the 2013 regular season will be behind them. It's go time and they are doing their part.

I wrote the other day that a team could go a long way with four of its five starters pitching well and the O's have that right now. Will Jason Hammel join them tonight? I can't decide if there is more or less pressure on Hammel now with the rest of the rotation on a roll.

Also, the O's bottom of the order is suddenly coming on as Henry Urrutia has arrived and Brian Roberts has returned. Add a resurgent Matt Wieters' bat to that and the lineup is relentless and strong one through nine in the order.

I do think we begin to see Buck Showalter play Urrutia against some left-handed starters, but maybe tonight is not the time to do it against Bruce Chen and his off-speed assortment.

Whether he starts or not, Urrutia is clearly not overmatched or intimidated at all by big league pitching. He's got some polish to his game in the batter's box. He also looks to me like a player that will add some upper body strength with another year in the club's conditioning program, and with more experience at this level, produce more pop than we might think he can.

But this is a fun time of the year as the games seem to take on more meaning and the final two months are just about here. The pennant race could be amazing in this division the rest of the way.

Right now, the Orioles have the look of a team that will be up for the challenge.

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