Orioles are out of the frying pan

For the first five weeks of the season, the Orioles slogged through one of the toughest early season schedules in baseball and came out clean on the other side. An impressive display of power, timely hitting and solid relief that has made them one of the winningest teams in either league at the quarter pole.

So, what happens? They get a quick breather against a couple of struggling teams and go 2-3 before wading into another long stretch of games that features three divisional rivals and tough series against the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals.

It all begins tonight when the Tampa Bay Rays open a three-game series at Camden Yards. The Rays got off to a difficult start, in part thanks to the Orioles, but they have rebounded strongly enough to arrive here with a .500 record. They've got their issues -- including the recent placement of 2012 Cy Young winner David Price on the disabled list -- but they still pitch well and have been swinging the bat better than advertised for the past three weeks.

Though the Rays just lost back-to-back games to the Boston Red Sox (after a six-game winning streak), they have averaged six runs per game over their past 17, so the Orioles' banged up starting rotation will get no breather this weekend.

The New York Yankees come in for three games next week before the Orioles travel to Toronto, which probably will be no picnic. The Blue Jays have underperformed badly after a huge offseason roster renovation, but they are just starting to show signs of life. They have won their last four games in a row and scored in double figures in their last three. That kind of thing had to happen sooner or later.

Then come the Nationals and Tigers, and wait 'til you see the Orioles schedule for June. It could be a very bumpy ride.

If you recall, this was about the point in the season that the Orioles went into their first real funk of 2012. They were 13 games over .500 on May 19 and then lost 10 of their next 13 games. They would struggle though June and July before making a sharp turn on July 29 and going 41-20 the rest of the way.