If the Orioles are going to help the Boston Red Sox slam the AL East door on the Toronto Blue Jays, the central figure for the next three days could be Gregg Olson.
The Orioles have lost seven of 10 games against Toronto (they were 4-9 against Boston) and can't count on a lot of runs in the last three games of the year. The difference in any, or all, of these games could be decided by Olson and his counterpart in the Toronto bullpen, Tom Henke.
Olson has set a new club record with 35 saves, but he has been struggling of late and wasn't particularly sharp against the Blue Jays when the Orioles were in Toronto three weeks ago. Still, he will be the key man if any of the next three games are on the line in the late innings.
Orioles manager Frank Robinson did a juggling act with his pitching staff the last week in order to line up his most effective starters for this series. Jose Mesa (2-2, 3.92), who hasn't started in over a week, will face some former teammates in tonight's game. Mesa was originally signed by Toronto and came to the Orioles in the Mike Flanagan trade three years ago and admits to having a special interest in his last start of the year. He will be opposed by David Wells (11-5, 3.05).
Tomorrow night the Orioles will send their biggest winner, Dave Johnson (13-8, 4.20) against Bud Black (12-11, 3.67). What could be a dramatic finale on Wednesday night will feature a confrontation between of Ben McDonald (8-5, 2.45) and Dave Stieb (18-6, 2.95) -- the most effective starters on their respective teams.
Despite the attractive pitching matchups, however, Olson and Henke still figure to be the key performers.