Suddenly, O's schedule doesn't look that bad After 4 West Coast trips, brief homestands, stretch run is easier than most

September 12, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Manager Davey Johnson made his feelings about the Orioles' schedule known numerous times this season.

Johnson called it the worst he's ever seen. Four trips to the West Coast. One-series homestands. At one point, Johnson even joked that perhaps the division-leading New York Yankees paid the league to burden the Orioles with such a rigorous schedule.

Now, that same schedule could play a large role in the Orioles' pursuit of the Yankees.

The Orioles and Yankees have far different tasks ahead of them in the race for the American League East title. After tonight's game against Chicago, the Orioles have just five games left against teams above .500.

Three of those games will be played in the Bronx next week against the Yankees and two games remain with the Boston Red Sox. The Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays make up the rest of the Orioles' opponents. Those teams went a combined 63 games below .500.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have 11 of 17 games remaining against opponents with a winning record. Eight of those contests are with the Red Sox, the Yankees' archrivals and one of the hottest teams in baseball since the All-Star break.

The Yankees have struggled with weak teams such as the Tigers and Blue Jays lately. How they'll respond to the Orioles and Red Sox remains to be seen.

"I said early on that everything that they were doing was turning out great," Johnson said. "Whoever they pitched, whoever they put at the plate. For a long time it looked that way.

"But you can't expect to be in cruise control the whole year. Now they're having to deal with some of the adversity we had to deal with for about two months of our season."

The Red Sox could be spoilers.

The Orioles play two games at Fenway Park during the last week of the season. There are plenty of tickets remaining for both games.

The Yankees play four games at home against the Red Sox later this month, then face the Brewers for two games before finishing the season with a four-game series at Fenway.

Only single tickets remain for the first two Yankees games at Boston. The last two games are already sold out, and, according to a Red Sox ticket representative, the entire series will be sold out well before it starts.

The Red Sox, and their fans, want revenge. If the Sox can't make the playoffs, then the next best option is to knock the Yankees out of postseason contention.

It could be payback for the trade of Babe Ruth and the Yankees' incredible comeback on the Red Sox in 1978, punctuated by Bucky Dent's homer.

Some things aren't easily forgotten.

Wild-card rules

How to determine the matchups for the first round of the American League playoffs:

The Central and West champions will have home-field advantage.

The better record of the Central and West champions will play the wild card.

If the wild card comes from the Central or West, it will play the champion not in its division.

The Central and West champions will not meet.

Scenarios

If the wild card is from the Central, it would play the West champion. The East champion would play the Central champion.

If the wild card is from the East, it would play the team with the best record between the Central and West champions. The East champion would play the team with the second-best record between the Central and West champs.

If the wild card is from the West, it would play the Central champion. The West champ would play the East champ.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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