By JP Finlay
For the first time since 1997, the Baltimore Orioles are in first place of the American League East in the month of September.
As Oriole fans know, it has been a long 15 years for Baltimore baseball. Over the last decade plus, sloppy defense and front office turmoil has defined the Oriole team more than home runs or player development.
But with a recent win surge, the scope of Oriole baseball has returned to its proud tradition. As of Sept. 4, the Orioles are tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East with identical 76-59 records.
While the teams are currently tied, they appear to be heading in opposite directions. After Tuesday night's 12-0 drubbing of Toronto, the Orioles march into first place on a three-game win streak and winners of eight of their last 10. For the Baltimore team, young pitchers like Zach Britton are delivering tremendous performances while Oriole hitters keep up the offensive pressure.
On the flip side, the Yankees have dropped three in a row and seven of their last 10. Age, injury and pitching seem to be issues for New York.
Much of the year, critics have dismissed the Orioles' success, waiting for the young team to fall apart. But manager Buck Showalter never wavered in his expectations for the team, and it seems the team never listened to the doubters.
On Thursday, the Yankees come to Camden Yards for a three-game series of tremendous importance. The AL East will be decided over the next three weeks of baseball, but in Baltimore, this Yankee series will be the biggest the city has had for a long time.