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Trip to Wrigley in cards for O's in 2008

Trip to Wrigley in cards for O's in 2008

BALTIMORE -- Perhaps a change of scenery is precisely what the Orioles need.

They'll find one in 2008 when they visit Wrigley Field in Chicago for the first time in club history, the aesthetic highlight of a tentative team schedule announced Tuesday.

The Cubs are the gem of an Interleague slate that also includes trips to Milwaukee and Washington, and home series against the Nationals, Pirates and Astros. And that's all just fine with the Orioles. Those five teams finished 2006 with a combined .472 winning percentage, about the easiest Interleague schedule the Orioles could have hoped to attain.

Still, titles are won and lost within divisions, and if the Orioles have designs on finishing above fourth place for the first time since 2004, they'll need to prosper against the American League East's elite -- and that, of course, means the Red Sox and Yankees.

The World Series champions are slated to come to Baltimore three times in 2008, with a weekend series from May 30-June 2 sure to become one of the summer's hottest tickets. They also play the Red Sox at home on May 13-14 and Aug. 18-20, and travel to Boston once each in June, July and September.

The Yankees might be an even hotter ticket next season due to a quirk in the schedule. Twice the teams play at Camden Yards on the weekend, on April 18-20 and Aug. 22-24. And the only time the Yankees make a midweek trip south begins with a game on Memorial Day.

The Orioles find their toughest stretch during the heart of the season. After closing out July with home series against the Angels and Yankees, they then travel to the West Coast to take on the Mariners and Angels. A quick flight home earns the Orioles three games against the Rangers before taking to the road again for four games against the Indians and three against the Tigers. Finally, the Orioles return home for three with the Red Sox and another three against the Yankees.

In all, that's 23 out of 26 games against the top two teams from each American League division last season.

With any luck, the Orioles will have prospered long before that stretch. They open the 2008 season at home March 31 against the Devil Rays, and nine of their first 13 games come against teams with losing records.

And they'll certainly have those Interleague games circled on their calendar -- if only for payback. They dropped four of six games to the Nationals in their regional rivalry last year, including a three-game sweep at Camden Yards. And the last time they faced the Cubs, in 2003, they lost two of three.

This Cubs team is decidedly different than that one, and will afford Orioles fans a chance to see old divisional rival Alfonso Soriano, a former Yankee, for the first time since he left Washington following the 2005 season. They're also likely to face perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Oswalt for only the second time when they host the Astros in June, and later that week will catch a glimpse of arguably the best young power hitter in the game when they take on Prince Fielder and the Brewers.

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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