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AL Wild Card Game Preview: Can the Rangers snap out of it?

Oct 5, 2012, 12:30 AM EDT

Orioles Rangers Baseball

The Matchup: Baltimore Orioles (93-69) at Texas Rangers (93-69)

The Time: Friday, 8:37 PM Eastern

The Starting Pitchers:  Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90 ERA)

The Breakdown:  Watching the Rangers melt down these past couple of weeks — especially in game 162 vs. the A’s on Wednesday — one is tempted to say that they have zero momentum — maybe negative momentum — heading into the playoffs and are sitting ducks.

Of course, if one were to say that, one would be ignoring the fact that (a) there is no correlation between how a team finishes and how they perform in the playoffs; and (b) momentum, as the old saying goes, is your next day’s starting pitcher.  And the Rangers have the way better next day’s starting pitcher.

Yu Darvish hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, but after making some mid-season adjustments he went 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 67/15 K/BB ratio in 57 innings over his final eight starts. The Orioles have not faced him at all this year and his is not the most conventional stuff in the world. I really think he’s going to present some problems for the men in orange.

Saunders, meanwhile, is no one’s definition of a shutdown ace. While he pitched well since joining the Orioles in August — a 3.63 ERA and 23/8 K/BB ratio in 45 innings — he is a lefty, the Rangers are righty heavy and they have beat him up like he owed them money the times they’ve faced him.  The Orioles bullpen has been the team’s strength this year, but they’re gonna need to be ready early in this one, methinks.

The Prediction: The Orioles are a great story and, if you don’t have a rooting interest in these AL playoffs, it’s hard not to root for them.  But a one-and-done game against a tough pitcher on the road in the first playoff series most of these guys have ever seen? Eh, not liking their chances.  Rangers 6, Orioles 3.

  1. verytalldad - Oct 5, 2012 at 12:45 AM

    Way to go out on a limb on that pick Craig.

    • anthonyverna - Oct 5, 2012 at 6:07 AM

      I’d rather have him make a pick he believes in than to go out on a limb just for the sake of going out on a limb (which makes no sense to do if you don’t think it’s the right thing to say).

    • brewcrewfan54 - Oct 5, 2012 at 6:38 AM

      It’s 1 game involving 2 teams. Not a lot of “limbs” to go out on.

      • verytalldad - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:38 AM

        Braves are the easy pick. Everybody is scared to pick against Medlen. Nobody wanted to pick Cards last year.

      • Victor's Secret - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:51 AM

        Go big or go home. I’m picking the Toledo Mud Hens in this one. If baseball’s taught me anything, it’s that anything can happen — especially in a one game playoff.

      • pdowdy83 - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:55 AM

        verytalldad, go talk about the Braves and Cardinals on that thread. This is the AL thread and what you are blabbering about has no point on this one…

    • kkolchak - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:12 AM

      Yeah, nothing worse that someone who makes a rational prediction based upon the facts.

      • verytalldad - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:37 AM

        2011 Red Sox and 2012 Rangers were convetional picks

        2011 Cardinals were not. Everybody and their mother is picking Medlen.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:07 AM

        2011 Cardinals were not. Everybody and their mother is picking Medlen.

        So the Cards, who had no business winning G6, winning the WS means you should never pick the supposed favored team in a game? What about all the times the best team did win?

      • bravojawja - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:24 AM

        Wrong thread, dad.

      • pftcensorssuck - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:55 AM

        I love when a team wins something they “had no business” winning.

        Can you please explain that??? lol

      • verytalldad - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:31 PM

        Hows that rational prediction based on facts working out in the Braves game!

    • Tim's Neighbor - Oct 5, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      You’re not even that tall.

      • verytalldad - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:29 PM

        your not even Tim’s neigbor

  2. cur68 - Oct 5, 2012 at 1:54 AM

    Up late, eh? Me too. Stupid day with no baseball! Anyhow, Yu for the win is how I see it. C’mon Rangers: show me somthin’.

  3. papichulo55 - Oct 5, 2012 at 2:13 AM

    So the Rangers have a good chance of knowing and preparing for three home games against known opponents, while the Yankees, owners of the best record in the league, wait to learn who and where they will play? Tell me again how this new system, using a 2-3 game format, rewards the number one seed.

    • mrfloydpink - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:32 AM

      Are you seriously arguing that the Rangers–who have a roughly 50% chance of going home tomorrow, and who will have to burn their best pitcher if they want to advance–are in a better position than the Yankees?

  4. buffalomafia - Oct 5, 2012 at 3:51 AM

    Baltimore wins

  5. bcirej - Oct 5, 2012 at 6:20 AM

    First, I am a Ranger fan. The Rangers held on to a lead by doing just enough, but I knew it was just a matter of time. They have been saying since late June that “we’ll get it going and start playing Ranger baseball” Well guess what? They never really did and it showed up big time. Even if they somehow manage to beat Baltimore on Friday, they will lose in three straight to the Yanks. Wash and his entire staff need to be replaced, they never did any coaching or managing, just left it up to the players to fix themselves. I can’t even count the many times the players looked totally lost on how to hit a certain pitcher, and instead of proper situational hitting, all were trying to hit a five-run homerun, or the pitchers on how to pitch to opposing hitters. Their answer to an 0-2 count was to see how far off the plate they could throw it, like they were throwing to undisciplined Ranger hitters.

    Oh, and I really wish MLB would drug test Oakland, what they have been doing for the last three plus months is not normal.

    • bmorelikeme - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:53 AM

      Its interesting….I’m an O’s fan and have very little confidence in this game. I get the same vibe from all the other O’s fans I talk to on a daily basis. It also seems that Rangers fans (My basis is the comments in these blogs) also are lacking confidence in their team.

      Hey someones gotta win. Why not?

    • gigab0t - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      Losing the division on the last day of the season is the new “Ranger baseball”

  6. sictransitchris - Oct 5, 2012 at 6:27 AM

    Painting those logos on the field looks fun.

    I want that job.

    • indaburg - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:35 AM

      Me too!

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:07 AM

      That’s great, but who are the Chefs?

      • wlschneider09 - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:17 AM

        Great goofily moodily!

      • wlschneider09 - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:20 AM

        Well, that just illuminates the shortcomings of posting from an iPad. FU autocorrect. Great googilgy moogilly.

  7. zidanevalor - Oct 5, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    Since both teams have the same record, would this game have happened last year anyway?

  8. randygnyc - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    Rangers must be the favorite here. Picking favorites doesn’t involve tree appendages.

    Poppichulo- this format of 2-3 is only supposed to be for this year because the wildcard was added after the schedule was made. Going forward, unless bud decides no harm was done, this should revert to the old format 2-2-1, as they’ll have time to build the travel time into the schedule. Again, that’s the plan but Bud always retains the right to unilaterally to decide differently.

  9. rockthered1286 - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    Here’s a fun fact I just found out this morning: while Saunders is 0-6 in his last 6 starts in Arlington, with an astronomical ERA somewhere close to double digits, nobody is talking about his last outting against the Rangers: 7+ IP, 1 ER.

    Of course this could be because Saunders hasn’t faced the Rangers since 2010.

    So what we really have: An O’s team who has never faced Darvish. A Rangers team who hasn’t seen Saunders in over 2 years. Both pitchers have been money as of recent. (people don’t realize Saunders has gone 6+ IP in his last 3 outting, giving up I believe a collective 4 or 5 runs in that time). I’m hoping the Rangers are still shaken up enough from the sweep by Oakland that it effects their play. However, the O’s just faced THE best 3 pitchers in any given series all year and came away with cold bats as well.

    Something’s got to give. I’m hoping we see a display of fireworks by the yardbirds tonight, who will bring it back to Baltimore Sunday.

    BAL-7
    TEX-4

    • natslady - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:23 AM

      Lot of Nats fans have mixed feelings about the O’s. Of course, there is hatred for Angelos. Aside from that, some fans have had bad experiences with O’s fans in our park (or theirs). I personally have not, and some of my best friends–seriously! So I’m rooting for the O’s–I’m rooting for the savvy manager, the scrubs, scamps, scatterings, and Adam Jones! I love me some Yu Darvish, but I can leave all the rest of Texas and their money, fame and “life problems.” I won’t be taking off work to see the O’s (unless it’s for the World Series :) ) but I’m watching closely.

      • kkolchak - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:00 AM

        The O’s-Rangers series is a real conundrum for Nats fans–the old Senator’s team that was ripped away from DC by an a-hole owner versus the team currently owned by an a-hole owner who tried to keep a team out of DC. Good thing the Twins are out of it. :)

    • indaburg - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:00 AM

      I hope your birds can pull off the win. I like how your team has overachieved and how they blew sabermetricians’ minds with their run differential throughout the season. I like sabermetrics, but it’s fun to mess with accepted wisdom.

  10. legacybroken - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    Saunders was once an Angel, Mile Napoli hates the Angels and does alot of damage against them. Today we will see if Napoli’s vengeance also applies to ex Angels.

  11. lumpyf - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    The Rangers are going to whip the Orioles. Game over by the 5th inning for all intent and purposes. Then they’re going to take the Yankees.

    • rockthered1286 - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:22 AM

      No justification? Just…because? Their bats have been cold, pitchers out of sorts, and blew a 13 game lead. They have an identical record to Baltimore, so where is the justification? Because Saunders, who hasn’t played in Arlington since 2010, has a bad record their? Because Yu had a great month? Because Hamilton, who has been extremely out of sorts recently, owns the O’s? Give me SOMETHING here…

      • lumpyf - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:47 AM

        The past means nothing. It’s one game. 50/50 chance and I’m picking the Rangers. Saunders doesn’t last 5 innings. Check back tonight and see if I’m right.

      • rockthered1286 - Oct 5, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        So if the past means nothing, what are you basing Saunders not lasting 5 innings on? I would assume…past outtings. Not necessarily against the Rangers but here’s a fun fact for you: Saunders last 6 starts? Hasn’t given up more than 3 runs in a single one of ‘em. 3 Wins, 2 ND’s, 1 Loss in which he gave up 2 ER. So…. there’s that.

  12. papichulo55 - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Yes, at this point, I like Texas better than the Yankees. Absolutely no confidence in the Yanks feast or famine style. Sabathia is off, Pettitte , Ichiro and Rodriguez are running on fumes and Mariano aint playin. Tex is rusty and chokes in post-season, and I think I still got enough to strike out Granderson with men in scoring position. Swisher is overhyped about a new contract. That leaves Cano, who is totally distracted by reporters tryin to get some dirt on him. Other than that, its “Lets Go Yankeeeess!”

  13. temporarilyexiled - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Rooting against the odds and hoping that the Orioles end up facing Yu Garbage.

  14. madhatternalice - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    Anyone in DC proper recommend a good place to go to watch tonight’s game? I want O’s fans!

  15. papichulo55 - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    Didnt forget Jeter. Yanks will be down 0-2 before he gets to use that inside-out swing of his, looking for cheap right field homers. But I love Jeter like a son, so I cant joke about him.

  16. rockthered1286 - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Seems I remember similar conversations about “No way the O’s can win…” early in spring training.

    And yet here we are… don’t be quick to pick the Rangers here folks. There’s a reason we have identical records.

    • lumpyf - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      It’s called luck.

      • rockthered1286 - Oct 5, 2012 at 1:50 PM

        It’s called EPIC collapse by the Rangers. How you ask? Bats got cold, Wash has no idea how to manage a game, poor trade deadline acquisition in Dempster, Hamilton distractions, and a hot Oakland team they watched walk right up on them and punch them in the face with a final series sweep in blowout fashion.

        Meanwhile the O’s have managed to pick up key players throughout the season in the form of McClouth, Saunders, Quintanilla for a stint along with others, while bringing up rookies at the right time in Machado, Tillman and Steve Johnson, and getting top production out of guys like Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds. Our record is also a direct result of great managerial skills by Buck. Want an example? Mark Reynolds has played terrible defense at third. Always has. Buck decides to move him to first. Since the move a month or so ago? Reynolds has had I believ a single error and has played like a true Gold Glove 1B, while also making room for Machado who has played like a seasoned vet at third. THAT’s how you manage a club.

        Win a series? Call it lucky. Win 93 games when you were projected by every single ESPN, SI, HBT, and Vegas sports junkie to win no more than 70? That’s not luck. You don’t get lucky for 162 games boss, sorry.

        Buckle Up Bro!!

  17. papichulo55 - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    @madhatternalice, you kiddin, right? This card-carrying NewYorker can help. I’m one of those Yankee Invaders of Camden Yards. Get in your car, take I95 North to Inner Harbor-Pratt Street. Its like driving from Staten Island to the Bronx, an intra-NYC trip, minus the potholes. Park your car on Pratt and walk to Mo’s, on President St. Get some take-out crabcakes and shrimps, and find a bench facing the harbor. Then find any place with a screen. The whole strip is gonna be a party! Good Luck.

    • madhatternalice - Oct 5, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      Right…or, I could be working in DC, and thus need a bar in DC, which is what I thought I asked…

  18. rockthered1286 - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:03 AM

    Anybody interested in humble pie???

    LET’S GO O’S!!! Here we come Yanks!!!

  19. papichulo55 - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:15 AM

    Dont need much of an excuse to go to the Inner Harbor. Cold beer, real crabcakes, not cakecrabs, and good baseball. Another chance to wear my colors, and engage in some good-natured trash talkin. Lets Go Yankeeeees!

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