Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 6/17/12

The Baltimore Orioles just won't die. They've fallen out of first in the AL East, but are only a half game behind the Yankees for the division lead. However, this isn't Baltimore's fault. They've won five straight games against the National League's pair of teams from Pennsylvania, the Phillies and Pirates. While both wins against the Phillies were walk-off, extra inning wins, the Orioles decimated the Pirates, outscoring them by 14 runs over the three game sweep, including last night's 12-6 drubbing. Now, the Orioles return to facing the NL East, with a road trip taking them to Atlanta and New York, before the O's head home to host their local rivals, the Washington Nationals. This is an absolutely crucial stretch for the Orioles, which will show if they're strong enough to hang out in the second half of the year.

Game of the Night: Royals 4, Brewers 3. Oh, those crafty Royals did it again. Shaun Marcum and Luke Hochevar each had impressive starts, but the Brewers led 3-2 after eight due to a Cody Ransom RBI single in the eighth. Brewers closer John Axford came in for the ninth, and struggled again. There was a bad omen from the start of the inning, when Axford struck out Mitch Maier, but he reached on a wild pitch. Maier moved to second on a groundout, and Jarred Dyson reached on a walk to bring up pinch hitter Brayan Pena with two outs. Pena singled to left to score Maier, and Ryan Braun threw the ball into the cutoff man (career minor leaguer Edwin Maysonet), who threw it into second for some reason. Rickie Weeks bobbled the throw, and Dyson barreled home to win the game, as Weeks's throw was off the mark. Sometimes, it's just not your year, and I think the Brewers are realizing that after last night's disappointment.

Pitching Lines of the Night: Jarrod Parker threw seven shutout innings in Colorado, allowing three hits with one walk, striking out six Rockies hitters in an 8-2 win for the A's. In the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Twins, Joe Blanton threw a one run complete game, allowing seven hits and striking out seven batters without a walk. Justin Verlander did Justin Verlander things in Chicago, where the Tigers won 5-3. Verlander went eight and allowed two runs on five hits, walking none and striking out eight.

Hitting Lines of the Night: In the Orioles' 12-6 win over the Pirates, Mark Reynolds went 4/5 with three runs, two RBI, a pair of doubles, and a homer. His teammate Matt Wieters went 4/5 with two runs, five RBI, and a pair of doubles. Brandon Moss continued an unreal start to his year with the A's, going 3/5 with two runs, three RBI, a pair of doubles, and a homer. He's slugging .962 in eight games, thanks to five homers. Austin Jackson continued to spark the Tigers in his return to the lineup, going 3/4 with two runs, three RBI, a walk, a double, and a homer. The Mets beat the Rays 9-6 to finish off a sweep, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis went 2/5 with three RBI and a pair of homers.

Spotlight Series: New series writeup coming today. Looking at the schedule, there's never been an easier pick for me this season.

Other Games: The Astros beat the Giants 6-3, awaking from their post-Cain hangoever. The Reds clubbed the Indians 12-5 to complete a sweep of their in-state rival. The Diamondbacks obliterated the Rangers 11-3, and Daniel Hudson probably bought himself some time in the rotation with a great start. The Cardinals beat the White Sox 5-3, but Adam Dunn homered again for Chicago. The Padres swept the Mariners after a 6-3 win, and I'm not sure which team is more pathetic at this point.

Today's Games: Pirates ace James McDonald looks to get his team back on the winning track in Cleveland against Justin Masterson. Daisuke Matsuzaka starts for the Red Sox in Chicago against Ryan Dempster. Gio Gonzalez starts against Phil Hughes and the Yankees. Brian Matusz will take on Tommy Hanson in Atlanta. Carlos Zambrano takes on Matt Moore in the BATTLE OF FLORIDA. Chris Sale versus Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium is quite possibly the best pitching matchup all season. Trevor Cahill takes on former Diamondback Dan Haren and the Angels.

Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.

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This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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