AL Wild Card Game: What Wins Out, Ranger Talent or Oriole Magic? [Preview and Open Thread]
Since the season started, it was assumed that the Texas Rangers would contend for the division title and probably win it. That became more obvious when the Angels stumbled out of the gate and Texas took a 13 game lead over the upstart Athletics on June 30. We of course know what happened. The Rangers blew that 13 game lead, including being up five with nine to play, and lost Game #162 to Oakland to lose the division and be forced to play the Wild Card game.
Their opponents tonight are the Cinderella Baltimore Orioles, who were supposed to suck this year (again) but decided not to stick with the script. How they've won 93 games this season has been talked about ad nauseum. The Orioles went 29-9 in one run games, the best in baseball history. They've won 16 straight extra inning games, best in over 50 years. Guys like Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden, and Nate McLouth have been late game heroes. Part of their success was a top-notch bullpen and a great manager in Buck Showalter, but clearly the O's have benefited from the vagaries of randomness to get here. Now that they are here though, none of that matters. We Orioles fans have waited 15 years for a playoff game, and damn if we're going to let anyone take that away from us.
The Rangers will turn to Yu Darvish to start the game. Darvish had a very solid debut season and would have gotten Rookie of the Year consideration if it weren't for Mike Trout. His weakness is giving up walks, but that might not be an issue against an Orioles' offense not known for its patience. In fact, the O's will probably look to do with what they do best: hit homers.
The Orioles will start Joe Saunders. Since being acquired from Arizona, Saunders has done exactly what was asked of him and plugged a hole in the rotation. However, his weakness is right handed hitters. This year, righties are crushing Saunders to the tune of .307/.349/.500. Ron Washington recognized this and put 8 right handed hitters in the starting lineup, and this being the Rangers that includes guys like Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre, no slouches. This has led to speculation that Showalter plans on this being a bullpen game, and is only asking Saunders to get through the lineup once. Given that the bullpen in the strength of the team, it makes sense.
On paper, the Rangers are clearly the more talented team. In the end though, they both won 93 games to get here, and with it being just one game, anything can happen. The Orioles haven't made any sense all season, so why would they start now. You can probably guess how I want this game to go. Let's see some more Orioles Magic.
Q it up here throughout the game.