BALTIMORE-- Let the homestretch begin.
With Monday's series opener against Tampa Bay, the third-place Orioles -- who entered the day 3 1/2 games behind the Rays -- embarked on a challenging slate to conclude the regular season.
Baltimore, which has two off-days remaining in August, has just one day off in September and will play almost exclusively against American League East teams with the exception of Oakland and Cleveland, both of which are in the hunt for an AL Wild Card berth.
"I haven't looked a whole lot further than the rest of this month, but I think I got it memorized," manager Buck Showalter said of his team's schedule. "There's not many teams that are not going to be potentially someone you are going to be watching the scoreboard with a little bit. So from that standpoint it should be entertaining for the fans. I don't know about the rest of us.
"It's going to be a ride, because you've got to keep your emotions and sense of reality, because the season's not going to end on one night. If you let yourself get on a roller coaster here, you will. But it's part of it. It's why we do these things, it's why we started in Spring Training -- to have the chance to do this, to play meaningful games the last month or so."
The expectation is that both the division race and the Wild Card chase will come down to the wire. Showalter said that the Orioles -- who reached the playoffs last season for the first time in 15 years -- are approaching the final 30-plus games the right way.
"It's something we should be looking forward to," he said. "Not some sense of negativity at all. Believe me, our guys aren't [negative] at all. We have a lot of respect for the competition."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.