A big week of baseball has arrived. While the Orioles begin a four-game series at Kansas City tonight, the Tampa Bay Rays begin a four-game series at Boston.
The Rays are baseball's hottest team with 13 wins in 14 games. But the Rays have also recently taken advantage of a weak schedule. Tampa is 15-2 in July and has played against Houston, the White Sox, Minnesota and Toronto this month.
The Rays' pitching has been very impressive and anyone that has watched this team over the last few years should not be surprised they are in the hunt. Let's see how they fare this week, with their next seven games at Boston and New York.
For the O's, they know if they win any of the next four games they'll gain that night on one of the two teams ahead of them in the AL East.
Sometimes it is not about which team you are playing but when you are playing them. The Orioles recently played a red-hot Toronto team and got swept as Toronto was winning 11 in a row. They just played a Texas team that has a much better shot at the playoffs than Toronto and swept them three in a row.
Texas has now lost seven of eight games, scoring just 18 runs. The O's caught them at a good time and they took care of business. The difference in defense and crisp play between the teams over the weekend was striking.
But when the year is over, they won't ask you if you beat a team when they were struggling or not, just how many wins you have.
Is Brian Roberts becoming a factor for this team? The answer could be yes. Roberts had four hits over the weekend and is 6-for-16 with three doubles and four RBIs over his last five games. He's ground out a few at-bats and made some nice plays in the field.
On the flip side, Ryan Flaherty's last start was July 5 and he has had just two at-bats over his last 11 games. It makes sense to me for the O's to send Flaherty - at least for a short time - to Triple-A to get more regular at-bats.
Matt Wieters, meanwhile, went 6-for-12 in the series and is batting .357 (15-for-42) over his last 12 games.
In his career, Wieters is a better second-half hitter. His average goes up from .248 to .269, his slugging from .402 to .447 and his OPS from .715 to .785 after the All-Star break.
Wieters' best month by the stat sheet is September. In his career, his average is .289 and his OPS is .852 in that month. The O's catcher, much maligned by some here for his offense, may have some big hits in that bat yet to come.
As you look ahead to a big week of baseball, for the Orioles and around the American League East, are the O's poised to get on a real roll here? The starting pitching has gotten better, the defense was spectacular over the weekend and the offense has been good most of the year.
What are your thoughts?