This, that and the other

BOSTON - For Orioles fans, there’s no baseball today.

You might prefer that I start you off with the magic number. OK, here goes ...

Eight is enough. The Blue Jays and Yankees won last night.

It’s mathematically possible that the Orioles clinch the division during the homestand that begins Friday with a doubleheader against the Yankees.

I haven’t ventured inside a champagne-soaked clubhouse at Camden Yards since 1997 following the American League Division Series. I expected it to become routine, but the Orioles were upset by the Indians in the American League Championship Series and didn’t post another winning record until 2012.

Fans should still be bitter. The Orioles were the best team in baseball that year. Not the Indians, not the Marlins.

If I ever see Armando Benitez ordering sliders off a menu, I’ll slap ‘em out of his hand.

It’s hard to believe that the Orioles haven’t clinched the American League East with a win at home since 1969.

Note to self: Bring an old water-proof jacket to wear after the final out. I committed a rookie mistake in Arlington, Texas, two years ago and was soaked from head to toe.

There’s no way to stay dry and conduct interviews during the celebration. You remove the recorder and iPhone from your pocket at your own risk. And these guys enjoy dousing reporters, whether it’s champagne, beer or buckets of ice water. That especially goes for those of us who have been here the longest and endured all those losing seasons.

Manager Buck Showalter would love to celebrate with fans at Camden Yards. He may claim that he’s not doing the math, but he knows the schedule and when the Orioles could clinch. Those orange boxes are lined up nicely.

The Yankees come to town for four games, and no one should be more excited than Jonathan Schoop, who’s in the clutches of a 1-for-20 slump that includes eight strikeouts. Schoop is 11-for-29 (.379) with two doubles four home runs, 11 RBIs and eight runs scored against the Yankees this season.

markakis-wall-catch-gray-sidebar.jpgNick Markakis probably could use a day off. He’s collected only two hits in his last 19 at-bats and six in his last 35. He’s 13-for-88 (.148) since making that sensational leaping catch at the fence at U.S. Cellular Field on Aug. 18.

His defense hasn’t suffered.

I’m not going to argue with or debate the folks who are married to the metrics. I’m just going to keep trusting my eyes, which almost popped out of my head again yesterday after he made another sensational diving catch while Wei-Yin Chen was working on a perfect game.

It wasn’t the only diving grab he made in the series. He also ran down a ball near the seats in foul territory that I assumed was out of his reach.

Caleb Joseph’s nine home runs this season are the third-most by an Orioles rookie catcher, and the most since Geronimo Gil hit 12 in 2002.

Anytime you’re compared to Geronimo Gil, it’s a good day.

In a season filled with great stories, is there a better one than Joseph? If so, he’s at least deserving of space in the top three.

An overnight sensation at 28.

I’m jumping around here, which is dangerous considering the early hour. I haven’t stretched properly.

It may have gotten lost in yesterday’s 10-run uprising, Chen’s perfection through five innings and the crazy bottom of the ninth, but Adam Jones continues to impress me with his toughness. It’s such an underrated facet of his game.

Jones, who should be packed in ice to heal his battered body, fouled a ball off his lower leg in the top of the ninth. I couldn’t tell whether it slammed off his shin or ankle, but he was in serious pain as head athletic trainer Richie Bancells raced out of the dugout.

Jones eventually got back in the box and doubled off the Green Monster, sprinting to second base as if the foul ball never touched him.

As Showalter likes to say, try doing that at home.

Speaking of home, did anyone notice how Major League Baseball decided this week to adjust Rule 7.13 for catchers blocking the plate? It’s no longer legal to straddle it, as the Orioles have been doing since spring training.

Oh really? Now it’s not allowed?

That method was fine until the final month of the regular season. Joseph, Matt Wieters and Nick Hundley left a clear path for the runner, as required by the rule, but they did so without being stationed beside the plate and having to make a sweeping tag.

Showalter and bench coach John Russell figured out a way to abide by the rule without putting their catchers at a greater disadvantage. It was inspired and I’m surprised other teams didn’t copy it. But there must have been complaints, which reached Joe Torre, the executive vice president for baseball operations.

I’m told that the word “straddle” actually appears in the memo sent to clubs on Tuesday.

Care to guess who complained the loudest?

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