Baltimore Orioles got off to a good start to the second half of the MLB season, beating their division rival, the Tampa Rays, in back-to-back games July 15-16.

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman throws a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Saturday, July 16, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

The two wins were much needed to maintain first place in the American League East division over a Boston Red Sox team that trailed the O’s by just two games for the lead at All-Star break. Boston also won two straight games through the weekend so a loss or two from the Orioles would’ve cost them the lead.

It’s important for Baltimore (53-36) to remain division leaders if the team wants to make the playoffs this October because a wildcard seed won’t come easy. Outside of the current AL Central division-leading Cleveland Indians (53-37) and the AL West division-leading Texas Rangers (54-38), two other teams in the AL have records with 50 or more wins now, including the Red Sox (51-38) and Toronto Blue Jays (51-42). And the Houston Astros are just one win away from 50 at 49-42.

Baltimore Orioles’ Pedro Alvarez (24) rounds third base after hitting a solo home run off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) during the second inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla., Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Boston and Toronto are currently the frontrunners for the two Wildcard slots, but neither team can afford to suffer any extended losing skids without the threat of the Astros taking their place. And there’s also the Detroit Tigers (47-44) and defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals (46-44) not far out of the picture with hopes of making a second-half surge towards the postseason. These teams will be pushing Boston and Toronto, which means Boston and Toronto will be on the heels of Baltimore.

The Orioles had a terrific first half of the season. They had leaders in many categories, from home runs and runs on offense to saves on defense. But they better be able to transfer that success into second-half stretch, or it would all be for nothing.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor