BALTIMORE -- Six games. The Orioles' season is on the line on their last road trip as Baltimore heads to Toronto and New York hoping to secure a postseason berth.
Following Monday's off-day, the O's will travel to Toronto for three games with the Blue Jays (who play the Yankees on Monday). Baltimore trails Toronto by 1 1/2 games for the top American League Wild Card spot.
The Orioles are 1 1/2 games up on the Tigers for the second Wild Card, having just wrapped up a 5-6 homestand with a weekend sweep of the D-backs.
"I mean, that's obvious," manager Buck Showalter said Sunday of his club being in a better spot following the weekend sweep. "But it is what it is. You get to go through customs and spend an hour or two there trying to get out of customs and get to the hotel. I think we're leaving around 4 o'clock tomorrow. Hopefully, [we'll] do some things that allow us to play more games there in the best park in baseball."
But how do the Orioles extend their season? Here are three keys.
1. Have Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman pitch like top-of-the-rotation hurlers
Gausman is coming off his worst start in the past month and also had an intercostal injury that saw his start get pushed to Tuesday. Tillman got just five outs in his last outing, his shortest of the season.
They both need to be on top of their game against a strong Toronto lineup. Not only is the Blue Jays' offense dangerous, but their rotation is one of the deepest in the AL. Gausman and Tillman (who hasn't been confirmed for Wednesday yet) have to hang with the Blue Jays and avoid short starts.
If they do that, the O's bullpen, which entered Monday with a 3.42 ERA (second in the AL) has a chance to shine.
"We thought we had one of the best bullpens going into the season and guys are bouncing back," said Orioles closer Zach Britton, who is a perfect 46-for-46 in saves. "[Mychal] Givens especially is doing a heck of a job out there. I think he's getting more comfortable out there. It's good going into a tough matchup in Toronto."
2. Have the big bats step up
Chris Davis' numbers in Toronto are excellent, and if the slugger continues his success there, it could go a long ways in helping the Orioles stay in the postseason hunt.
Davis, who had two RBIs on Saturday, and Manny Machado, who doubled as part of a two-hit day on Sunday, are long overdue for some big hits. And while a good chunk of the Orioles' lineup has struggled -- with some exceptions -- these two are capable of carrying the club. Machado, recognized as the Most Valuable Oriole on Sunday, has a career high in homers and RBIs this season.
3. Reverse the curse
Yes, the Orioles have been better on the road as of late, going 6-3 on their past road trip to help them get to where they are. But that didn't include a stop in Toronto or New York, both cities the O's have yet to win a series in this season.
The Orioles are a combined 4-9 at the Blue Jays' and Yankees' home stadiums, and they have to find a way to win three, ideally four, of the final six games to secure a Wild Card spot. Keep in mind, Toronto owns the tiebreaker against Baltimore (based on its 9-7 record) right now, which means the O's would have to play a potential AL Wild Card Game at Rogers Centre if the two teams ended up tied.
Toronto has not been kind to Baltimore in recent years, but the Orioles did win a series there last season and will have to prove they can do it again. While the Yanks' (5 1/2 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot entering Monday) postseason hopes have faded and could be totally eliminated by the end of the week, they'll still be looking to play the part of spoiler.
Put simply, there's no way around it now: the O's have to find a way to win in two of their least favorite road cities.