The AL East race all comes down to this on Wednesday night. The Baltimore Orioles will be on the road to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in the rubber match of the final series of the year for these two teams.
Last year, drama happened on Game 162 for the Orioles and the Rays. This year, Baltimore is hoping that it once again all goes its way. The O’s still have their AL East dreams alive, and they could still even be the top seed in the American League if the chips fall right. In an ideal situation, Baltimore wins today, gets a New York Yankees loss, and then wins Thursday’s one-game playoff to win the AL East. If that’s how it pans out, the road to the World Series will go through Camden Yards. A loss in this one, and the travel schedule will be atrocious for the O’s. They’ll have to go to either Oakland or Arlington for Friday’s Wild Card game, and if that game is won, they’ll have to get back to Camden Yards for the first two games of the ALDS. Manager Buck Showalter puts all of that in the hands of the young Chris Tillman on Wednesday. Before July 4th, Tillman was nothing more than a has been in the Baltimore organization; a man who had his shot in the bigs before and just never panned out. Now though, he is 9-2 with a 2.78 ERA, and he has been one of the best pitchers in the league over the course of the last two months.
Tampa Bay got some help last year on this day from the Orioles, who beat the Boston Red Sox to pave the way for Evan Longoria to blast the most famous home run in Rays history. This year, the men from the Trop are going to hope to send Baltimore on the road. Manager Joe Maddon knows that, in spite of the fact that his team isn’t going to make the playoffs, there is nothing to be ashamed of for a team that will win either 89 or 90 games. The Rays were one of the best five teams in baseball this year, and they were arguably the best team in the league from about September 15th on, but the AL East schedule parlayed with some unfortunate injuries and untimely hitting kept the team on the wrong side of the playoffs. Jeremy Hellickson will finish off the season tonight for the Rays, and he is looking to build upon his 9-11 mark and his 3.20 ERA.
The Orioles were the kings of Game 162 last year, but they are going to be trumped by the jokers. This is a game that the Rays routinely win, and they’ll get the job done behind a great effort by Hellickson tonight to give the Yankees the AL East title. Tampa Bay 6 – Baltimore 2