Ranking the 3 Most Crucial Series Left for the Baltimore Orioles

Drew Reynolds@dreynoldsawlContributor IIIAugust 29, 2013

Ranking the 3 Most Crucial Series Left for the Baltimore Orioles

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    Regardless of the final outcome of their current series at Fenway, the Baltimore Orioles are still in contention for a playoff spot with their 70-61 record.

    This is especially true when looking at the rest of the Orioles' schedule. Out of the 31 remaining games the O's have, 24 of those are against AL East opponents, while 21 are against teams still in legitimate playoff contention.

    While each game from here on out is obviously important, there are a few series where that importance can't be understated. If the O's want to steal a wild-card spot, or perhaps even win the AL East, these are the series that are especially "must-win."

Honorable Mentions

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    August 30 - September 1, at New York Yankees

    Somehow, despite the injuries, the Yankees are still in playoff contention. Their upcoming series with the Birds at Yankee Stadium could give either team some extra hope in their hunt for October.

    September 5-8, vs. Chicago White Sox

    If a team wants to make the playoffs, it has to beat the teams it is supposed to beat. A four-game series against a struggling White Sox team is a perfect opportunity for the O's to make up some ground on the rest of the contenders.

    September 2-4, at Cleveland Indians

    The Indians are in the same boat as the Orioles: outside looking in, but still with hope. The two meet in Cleveland at the beginning of September and will try to knock each other out of the wild-card race.

    September 9-12, vs. New York Yankees

    The final meeting between the O's and the Bronx Bombers will be a four-game set at Camden Yards. Both teams will be looking to keep pace in the race for the playoffs, and a series sweep could make or break either team's chances.

    September 24-26, vs. Toronto Blue Jays

    The Blue Jays may not be in playoff contention, but they have played the Orioles tough this season, winning seven of the previous 13 meetings this year. They'll look to play spoilers as they visit Camden Yards in the second-to-last series of the season.

3. September 17-19, at Boston Red Sox

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    The Orioles' last road trip will surely be a crucial one, and it begins with three games in Boston.

    Boston assured itself a series win in its current three-game set with the Orioles on Wednesday night with its 4-3 victory over the Birds. The two teams still play seven games against each other this season, which gives the O's a chance to make up some crucial games.

    The Sox could have the division all but locked up by the time this series begins. Regardless, if the O's can win a couple of crucial games in September at Fenway, it would greatly improve their playoff chances, as well as boost their confidence.

2. September 20-23, at Tampa Bay Rays

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    The second part of the Orioles' last road trip is a three-game series in St. Petersburg against the Rays.

    The Rays currently lead the wild-card race, and they still have aspirations for winning the division. Still, in this series they will look to eliminate any hope the O's still have in catching them in the standings.

    Tampa has been a burden to the Birds this year, winning nine of the previous 15 meetings between the two this season.

1. September 27-29, vs. Boston Red Sox

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    The last of day of the 2011 MLB season, September 28, 2011, was, depending on who you're asking, one of the greatest nights in MLB history.

    Minutes apart, the Orioles came back to beat the Red Sox 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, while the Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Yankees 8-7 in the bottom of the 12th. Tampa won the wild-card spot. The Red Sox missed the playoffs.

    A scenario similar to this could possibly be in the cards this year.

    Three teams in the AL East could still be fighting for a playoff berth: the Rays, Red Sox and Orioles. In the last series of the season, the Sox and O's face each other, while the Rays face the Toronto Blue Jays, a team likely looking to play spoiler similar to the O's in 2011.

    While it's highly unlikely that this season will conclude as epically as it did two years ago, the importance of games 160, 161 and 162 could be just as high.