In an inevitable move that could affect everything from the American League wild-card race to Cal Ripken's quest to reach 3,000 hits, games scheduled for tonight and Thursday between the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's were postponed because of heavy rain generated by Hurricane Floyd.

With air travel likely to become problematic by Thursday, the A's left tonight to return to Oakland, and the Orioles also were scrambling to get out of town. The Orioles, who have won eight straight games, play three games in Anaheim, Calif., beginning Friday.

With most top baseball officials -- including American League President Gene Budig, and Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Chief Operating Officer Joe Foss -- in Cooperstown, N.Y., attending owners meetings, there was no immediate word on when, if at all, the two postponed games would be played.

However, because the A's are in contention for the wild card -- they trailed Boston by three games entering today -- every attempt will be made to play the games. A decision could be made as early as Thursday.

"League rules say you have to attempt to play the games at the earliest possible date," said Orioles General Manager Frank Wren, "especially in a situation like this where the postseason is [potentially] involved. We'll work with the league office on this."

That could mean a daytime doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards Sept. 23, currently scheduled as an off-day for both clubs. Still, the travel demands would make it a major inconvenience for both teams.

The Orioles will be in the midst of a nine-game, 11-day road trip at that time. They would return home from a night game in Texas around 4 a.m. Sept. 23, then play a doubleheader against the A's before continuing on to Boston, where they start a four-game series Sept. 24.

For the A's, the scenario could be even worse, forcing them to fly cross-country Wednesday night following a day game in Oakland, arriving around 2 a.m. They would then reverse course after the doubleheader in Baltimore to get to Texas, where they play the Rangers.

"If it helps us get us into the postseason," said A's first baseman Jason Giambi, "then I'm all for it."

Equally problematic for the A's playoff hopes is that they might have to face the top of the Orioles' pitching rotation Sept. 23. Oakland was scheduled to face the Orioles' two most inexperienced pitchers tonight and Thursday in 20-year-old rookie Matt Riley, who was to have made his second major league start, and 25-year-old Jason Johnson.

Orioles Manager Ray Miller today said he planned to start Scott Erickson, Sidney Ponson and Mike Mussina as scheduled this weekend in Anaheim, with Riley and Johnson possibly starting in Texas Sept. 21 and 22.

In the other possible scheduling scenario, the teams could play a doubleheader Oct. 4, the first day after the end of the regular season. However, since that date can be used only if the postponed games could affect postseason bids, the Orioles conceivably could lose the gate revenue of two lucrative home games.

That scenario also raises the possibility of Ripken losing two games in his quest for his 3,000th career hit. In the midst of an 11-for-20 tear, Ripken stands 16 hits shy of 3,000 with 17 games remaining, including the two make-up games.

"I try very hard not to be concerned with things that are out of my control," Ripken said today. "I would hope that doesn't come into play. I would hope I wouldn't be sitting on 2,998 [hits] and lose two games."

"He'll just have to get a couple of four-hit games," Miller said.

Orioles Notes: Miller said he will consider using Riley out of the bullpen to get him some work if it appears Riley won't start again for some time. However, Riley said, "I'm not a bullpen guy. I'm a starter. I'm not good coming out of the bullpen. It takes me an inning or so to get going. I've always been like that."