In the aftermath of a rousing, and potentially costly, Yankees victory on Monday night at Camden Yards, it would be easy to overlook what became the secondary story of the night: That the Orioles, perennial doormats of the AL East, have truly become a team to reckon with this season.
The immediate concerns for the Yankees after last night's 8-5 win were the physical conditions of Ivan Nova, David Robertson and Raul Ibanez, in that order.
But they should not overlook the fact that the Orioles, who are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays atop the AL East with a 22-14 record, have become a tough, resilient ballclub who are no longer likely to provide the Yankees with 12 or more free wins a season.
Buck Showalter has done an excellent job of taking a relatively young squad and teaching it how to play aggressive, winning baseball. And if not for a horrendous error by Chris Davis last night, which led to two key runs, it might well have been the Orioles who won the game, depriving the Yankees of coming out of this night with anything positive.
As it is, the Yankees could be staring into the abyss of a disaster, if Nova's ankle turns out to be injured worse than expected, and if Robertson's sore ribcage turns out to be an oblique strain, and if Ibanez, who has become a key bat not only off the bench but in the everyday lineup with the injury to Brett Gardner, has to miss any significant time after taking a pitch off his elbow.
If all the worst-case scenarios come true, the Yankees will have a tough time beating anyone for the next month or so. But even at full strength, this year's AL East race is shaping up to be a dogfight, because with the Orioles in the mix, there are now at least four credible teams vying for at best two playoff spots.
Which brings us to Question No. 1: Who do you fear more right now Yankees fans, the Orioles or the Boston Red Sox? Let us know, you know where.
Up now: My column on the night the Yankees went from baseball team to MASH unit.
Up soon: Another fine What2Watch4 by Katie Sharp. The clubhouse will open at 3:30 p.m. for tonight's 7:05 start. Lineups will be posted shortly thereafter, followed by various blog items updating the conditions of all the Yankees walking wounded.
Question No. 2: Mark Teixeira, the hitting star of Monday night's game, said he could probably kick his bronchial ailment with a couple of full days off. Do you think he should take them? Or muddle through the way he has been going? Let us know -- be nice, keep it clean and thanks for reading.