CLEVELAND -- With 16 games left in the season, the Orioles still retain hope of finishing fifth in the American League East. Beyond that, their best shot at respectability is to build on some rather impressive home run statistics.
Going into the three-game series with the Indians that opens here tonight (7:35, HTS), the Orioles trail the fifth-place Yankees by 1 1/2 games. With the Yankees playing three times in Boston, this would appear to be the best opportunity to make up some ground before the Orioles go into New York for three games Oct. 1-3.
With a 61-85 record, the other very modest goal besides matching last year's fifth-place finish would be to reach 70 wins, a figure that would still leave them six below last year's total.
Against Cleveland, the Orioles will be looking to extend a streak that has seen them hit at least one home run in 10 straight games. They have 20 in that stretch, which is four below the club mark set in 1987, when the Orioles hit a major-league record 38 homers in 14 games.
In tonight's game, Bob Milacki (9-8, 3.97) continues his quest to become the Orioles' first, and probably only, 10-game winner. He will be opposed by Dave Otto (1-6, 4.52).
Tomorrow at 1:35 Arthur Rhodes (0-2, 8.31) will make his sixth major-league start, facing Cleveland's ace lefthander Greg Swindell (8-14, 3.52).
In Sunday afternoon's finale Mike Mussina (4-4, 3.47) will go for the Orioles against a pitcher yet to be determined by the Indians.
Following the three games against Cleveland, the Orioles return home for three games with Boston.