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With two and half weeks to go in the regular season,  the best divisional race in baseball has emerged in the American League East. We might have expected this at the beginning of the year, only we were more likely to have thought the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays would be battling for the title, with little to no mention of the Baltimore Orioles.

Despite our faulty expectations, the Orioles now sit tied with the Yankees atop the AL East, while also leading the Los Angeles Angels by 3.5 games for the final Wild Card spot. October baseball in Baltimore is almost upon us.

Many have compared this incarnation of the Orioles to miracle teams of the recent past like the 2010 San Diego Padres or the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks. And you can be forgiven for using words like miracle and team of destiny after witnessing games like their 14 inning win against the Rays on Thursday.

With the victory, the Orioles improved to 64-0 when leading after 7 innings and moved to 27-7 in one-run games this year. Closer Jim Johnson has 42 saves to go along with his 2.83 ERA and 3.63 xFIP, and the bullpen collectively have a 3.09 ERA. The win was also the O’s 13th straight in extra-innings.

However, the most important series of the weekend for Baltimore might not even involve them, as there’s a three game set between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees scheduled to start tonight. The Rays sit four games back in the Wild Card standings, but still have their sights set on the division. The Yankees are in a dog-fight with the O’s for top spot, and can’t afford any pro-longed slumps the rest of the way.

Courtesy: ESPN

Here are the pitching matchups this weekend in New York:

Friday:

TB – David Price: 17-5, 2.54 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 3.20 xFIP, 24.3 K%, 7.5 BB%

NYY – CC Sabathia: 13-5, 3.56 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 3.25 xFIP, 23.3 K%, 5.3 BB%

Saturday:

TB -James Shields: 14-8, 3.71 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 3.35 xFIP, 22.7 K%, 6.2 BB%

NYY -Ivan Nova: 11-7, 4.92 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 3.94 xFIP, 20.2 K%, 7.3 BB%

Sunday:

TB -Matt Moore: 10-10, 3.68 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 4.28 xFIP, 23.2 K%, 10.3 BB%

NYY – Hiroki Kuroda: 13-10, 3.17 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 3.68 xFIP, 18.3 K%, 5.3 BB%

Other series to watch:

The Orioles start a three game series against one of the better teams in all of baseball, the Oakland A’s, who happen to be three games back in the AL West, and holders of the first Wild Card spot.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers continue their four game series with the Wild Card clearly on their minds.

Look out for the suddenly hot Milwaukee Brewers, only 3 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. Milwaukee is back at home against the New York Mets for three.

And the rest around MLB:

Chris Carpenter may make his 2012 debut next week for the St. Louis Cardinals. [MLB.com]

The Minnesota Twins will be without pitcher Cole De Vries (a career minor-leaguer) for the remainder of the season with a cracked rib. [MLB.com]

The Dodgers scratched Ted lilly from a simulated game Thursday [LA Times]

The Red Sox won’t discipline Alfredo Aceves after the latest incident between himself and club on Wednesday. [Boston Globe]

Troy Tulowitzki isn’t ready for a return to the Rockies quite yet. [Denver Post]