The second ever Wild Card playoff game takes place at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday night, where the Texas Rangers will hope to dispose of the Baltimore Orioles once and for all.
The O’s were the team to watch over the course of the season. They were just a lot of fun and refreshing. Sure, a lot of what they accomplished was just pure luck, but it was a team that had some grit and won a ton of close games (not to mention going 16-2 in extra innings). They’ll need all of that moxie to take out the two-time defending AL champs in their home stadium on Friday night in the only game that matters for the rest of the year. After much debate in his own mind, Manager Buck Showalter has decided to hand the baseball over to LHP Joe Saunders for this do or die game. Saunders has only pitched in seven games since coming over to the O’s from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he has some playoff experience under his belt and was probably the better of the two choices. Saunders led his team to a 4-3 record in those seven games, and he posted a 3.63 ERA in those games to boot. The problem? He only got 3.0 runs of support per game, and he’ll need a heck of a lot more than that to win this one in all likelihood.
Manager Ron Washington has to be puzzled as to why and how his team is in this spot. The Rangers went to Oakland knowing that winning just one of the three games there would have gotten them the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs. The punishment for getting swept? Texas now has to be a Wild Card and will have to win this game to keep its season going. It’s a sad state of affairs for sure, but the season isn’t over with. The Rangers clearly have the better team in this game, and they have to have a heck of a lot of confidence that RHP Yu Darvish is going to get the job done. Darvish has a 16-9 record with a 3.90 ERA this year, but it must be noted that this is the first time that he has pitched in a game of this magnitude in America. Still, Darvish led the Rangers to a 19-10 record in his 29 games, and he is pitching for a team that won a heck of a lot of games at home.
The good news for the Rangers is that they have the home field advantage in this one. The bad news is that they are playing against the stingiest team in baseball. Baltimore just has the grit and tenacity to get this one done, and though we think that Texas is going to probably win this game, it’s going to be hard to not back the O’s at this type of a price. If it’s a close game, we’ll stick with the AL East squad. Baltimore 5 – Texas 4