Have Tampa Bay's struggles opened the door for the Orioles? (Wright to Triple-A)

The Orioles won just one of three games over the weekend and they gained a game on the Tampa Bay Rays, who got swept by Oakland.

Remember when it seemed like Tampa Bay would never lose again? The Rays are 1-7 in their last eight games. Remember when the Orioles took the series from Oakland? The A's are 6-1 since leaving Baltimore.

Things can change fast folks. If you think the Orioles are not playoff contenders, guess again. They are three games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild card as they begin play today against Cleveland.

The 2013 Orioles: The team whose playoff hopes just won't die.

Tampa Bay now plays seven more games on the West Coast against the Angels and Mariners before facing Boston. Not long after that, the Rays play four against the Orioles.

The Orioles keep looking not like a playoff team, yet they remain contenders. If they go 6-1 over the next seven like Oakland just did, where would that leave them?

As the minor league season got longer this year, Bowie right-handed pitcher Mike Wright got better and cemented his place as one of the organization's top pitching prospects.

Over 25 starts this season for the Baysox, Wright, who will pitch Bowie's season finale this afternoon, is 11-3 with a 3.26 ERA over 143 2/3 innings. He is tied for the Eastern League ERA lead heading into the final day.

But over his last five starts, Wright is 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA. In nine starts since the All-Star break, the O's 2011 third-round pick out of East Carolina is 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA.

Bowie manager Gary Kendall said Wright has quality stuff and now has the quality preparation to match that.

"I think his game plan prior to outings is much improved, his knowledge of the opposition," Kendall said. "Last year, I can't remember him wanting to review a lineup. We emphasize that here and some pitchers take advantage of it more than others. Knowing your opposition is important and something major league players do daily. His preparation is better."

The 23-year-old Wright has touched the mid-90s this year with his fastball and had recorded nine consecutive quality starts until rain forced him to leave a start last week after just 2 1/3 innings.

"He has a good fastball and his slider and changeup have made some strides. He is a good three-pitch guy and he is still developing his curveball," Kendall said. "He has gone deeper into games and maintained his stamina and arm strength through the year. His maturity from a year ago is the key to his success."

In the playoff picture: Both Triple-A Norfolk and short-season Single-A Aberdeen could clinch playoff berths today.

Last night, Norfolk beat Durham 3-2 as Steve Johnson got the win. He gave up just two hits and one run over 6 1/3 innings and tied his career high with 10 strikeouts. Jonathan Schoop had two his and an RBI. Today is the final day of the International League's regular season and Norfolk leads Rochester by one game for a wild card berth. A Norfolk win or Rochester loss today would put Norfolk in the playoffs. Rochester needs both a win and a Norfolk loss to advance. The Tides host Durham at 12:05 p.m. with Zach Britton on the mound.

Aberdeen beat Brooklyn 5-4 last night as Hunter Harvey pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings on just one hit with five strikeouts. Mike Yastrzemski hit a three-run double in the ninth inning. Aberdeen swept that two-game series to take a 1 1/2 game lead for first place on Brooklyn with three games to play. An Aberdeen win today coupled with a Brooklyn loss would give the IronBirds their first playoff berth. Aberdeen hosts Lowell tonight at Ripken Stadium to start a three-game series to conclude the regular season

Update: Wright has been moved from Bowie to Norfolk and will start this afternoon's game for the Tides. This will be his Triple-A debut.

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