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Orioles hold off Rangers, 5-1, advance to ALDS

The Rangers brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but the Orioles held on to keep their magical season going.

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Orioles beat Rangers, advance to Division Series

In the first-ever American League Wild Card Game, the Orioles won going away, beating the favored Rangers 5-1.


Orioles add on in 9th inning, lead 5-1

"Nate McLouth led off for the Orioles in their first playoff game, and he had a great game, helping his team dispatch the defending A.L. Champion Rangers."

"After the coup, President Stallone suspended the 2012 election, citing 'national security issues.'"

Which sentence would you have thought more likely at this time last year? I'd take the latter. But here we are.

Rangers closer Joe Nathan came on in the top of the ninth inning, down 3-1, ostensibly to prevent things from getting worse. They got worse.

Jim Thome walked to lead off the inning, and he went to third on a Robert Andino double. Manny Machado followed, hitting a good pitch to left for a single:

Lew Ford, pinch-running for Thome, scored, and Andino went to third. After a McLouth sacrifice fly, the Orioles extended their lead to 5-1.

The Orioles.

The Baltimore Orioles.

Yep. It's time to just leave this here:


The Curse of Darren O'Day

I don't know. Seems as good of a curse as any. But here are Darren O'Day's three previous seasons:

2009 26 TOT 1.84 58.2 3 18 56
2010 27 TEX 2.03 62.0 5 12 45
2011 28 TEX 5.40 16.2 7 5 18

Which one looks like the anomaly? It's always tricky to say with relievers -- they're always going to be at the mercy of sample size -- but it sure looked like O'Day was a quality reliever until 2011. He went down to Round Rock and did really well after getting blown up in the majors. And then, before the 2012 season, he was unceremoniously waived.

The Orioles picked him up. Here's how he did:

2012 29 BAL 2.28 67.0 6 14 69

And against the Rangers in the first A.L. Wild-Card game? He threw two innings, allowing only an infield hit. Everyone's worried about Josh Hamilton kicking the ball around against the A's and not hitting in general ... because that's kind of important ... but don't forget the Curse of Darren O'Day.

And Josh Hamilton, too. It's probably a good idea to focus on that. He struck out with a runner on second, in what could be his final at-bat as a Texas Ranger. There were boos.


Orioles enter 8th inning with 3-1 lead

Well, the Orioles got what they wanted.

They've got a lead after seven innings. During their magical marvelous miraculous regular season, the Orioles owned the lead after seven innings in 74 of their games ... and won all 74 of them.

Now they've got that lead after seven innings in the winner-take-all Wild Card Game against the Texas Rangers. The O's scored an unearned/manufactured run in the first inning, and a perfectly legitimate run in the sixth when Adam Jones followed up a couple of singles with a sacrifice fly.

Meanwhile, Baltimore starter Joe Saunders gave up just one run in 5⅔ innings, which was two or three innings more many of us thought he would last. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Buck Showalter ignored convention and replaced Saunders; the move paid off when sidearmer Darren O'Day retired Nelson Cruz to end the inning.

In the seventh, the Orioles pushed their lead to 3-1. With one out, Ryan Flaherty singled off Yu Darvish; next, pinch-runner Robert Andino moved to second when Manny Machado bunted (unsuccessfully) for a base hit. Andino stole third, then scored a moment later when Nate McLouth singled off Derek Holland, who'd just replaced Darvish on the mound. Here's that big hit:


McLouth reached second on an errant pickoff throw, but Holland escaped the inning by striking out J.J. Hardy.

You might wonder why Ron Washington chose Holland in that spot, with lefty reliever Robbie Ross in the bullpen. Maybe he'll explain that one after the game.

O'Day came out for the bottom of the seventh, and retired two Rangers on ground balls, and the next on a strikeout.

After seven innings, the Orioles' lead is 3-1.



Orioles take 2-1 lead on Adam Jones sac fly

For a while, nothing was going on in the Wild Card contest between the Rangers and Orioles. A runner here, a runner there, the occasional double play, but nothing of note. This game needed some motivation! It needed to giddy up and git going!

There we go. And there the Orioles went, taking the lead in the sixth inning off Yu Darvish. J.J. Hardy led off the frame with a soft liner to right for a single, and Chris Davis hit a sharp grounder through the right side, sending Hardy to third. Adam Jones ripped a first-pitch slider to deep right field, and Hardy trotted home easily, putting the Orioles up 2-1.

Davis was stranded at first when Jim Thome struck out looking on a nasty, 64-m.p.h. Darvish curve to end the inning.

Meanwhile, Joe Saunders kept on keepin' on, and he was pulled with two outs and no one on in the bottom of the sixth. What was it that Jerry Dipoto said a couple years ago?

We achieved by maintaining major league quality with a 2008 All-Star in Joe Saunders and a guy who quite frankly has been one of the winners in Major League Baseball. I think he trails only Roy Halladay among major leaguers in total wins. He’s won 63 percent of his games since coming to the major leagues, pitched in the postseason on two different occasions. He’s a quality, durable, steady major league starter. We feel like this club needs that, and a guy with a good deal of playoff experience.

That's why he runs a team and you don't.


Yu and Saunders soldier on, still 1-1 after 5

Yes, Bazooka Joe Saunders is probably lucky to have given up just one run in five innings. No, he hasn't been nearly as impressive as Yu Darvis. And yes, you might reasonably argue that Saunders should have been yanked after he struck out Josh Hamilton to end the third inning; Buck Showalter could have brought in a capable right-handed pitcher to face the Rangers' righty-heavy lineup.

But this is baseball, and Saunders does have five solid innings in the books despite giving up six hits, thanks to three double plays already. And he's thrown only 72 pitches, which will make it awfully hard for Showalter to pull him now.

Meanwhile, Darvish has been outstanding. The run he allowed was unearned, and he's struck out five Orioles while allowing only two hits.

Which doesn't matter a bit. This is baseball. All it takes is one bloop followed by a blast, and everything that came before will be forgotten, like tears in the rain.


Orioles vs. Rangers: Nothin' doin'

After the Orioles scored a run in the top of the first, the Rangers opened the bottom of the first with a walk and a single against Joe Saunders. It wasn't looking good. The Orioles' bullpen got busy. A single bead of perspiration trickled down Saunders' face. This was the beginning of the end ...

Then there was a run-scoring double play and ... nothin' since. Saunders allowed a hit in the second, and he pitched around a hit and an error in the third.

Ah, but this is Joe Saunders, Perfectly Adequate Starting Pitcher. He was pitching in the best hitters' park in the American League against a powerful lineup that's murder on lefties. And with one out in the fourth, Nelson Cruz hit a line-drive single. Michael Young hit an opposite-field single that moved Cruz to third. Here we go, you were right to think.

But Mike Napoli struck out, and Geovany Soto grounded out to end the threat.

Joe Saunders is pitching a helluva game.

Orioles vs. Rangers: Nothin' doin'.


After 3 innings, Rangers and Orioles tied 1-1

For the Baltimore Orioles in the inaugural Wild-Card Game, the plan was simple: Don't get behind early, and win a battle of the bullpens in the late innings. After all, the Orioles sported one of the American League's top bullpens this season, and went 74-0 in games they led after seven innings.

So far, so good. While there were legitimate questions about left-hander Joe Saunders' ability to survive for long against the Texas Rangers' righty-heavy lineup, after three innings the score was 1-1, with Saunders inducing a double-play grounder from Josh Hamilton in the first inning and striking out two Rangers in the second. Hamilton's grounder was enough to drive in the Rangers' first (and so far, only) run, but it was a happy outcome for Saunders and his teammates. Saunders struck out two Rangers in the second inning, and benefited from another twin killing in the third. Elvis Andrus did lace a single down the right-line, but Saunders struck out Hamilton -- the only left-handed hitter in the lineup -- to finish the frame.

Baltimore scored their run in the top of the first, thanks to an error, a stolen base, and an RBI single from J.J. Hardy. Otherwise, though, Rangers starter Yu Darvish has been largely untouchable, giving up just the one hit and striking out four Orioles in three innings.

So a third of the way in, it's 1-1. If the Orioles can just get the lead ...


Orioles score early, Rangers get run right back

On the very first play of the very first Wild Card game in American League history, first baseman Michael Young made an error. Well, then.

Nate McLouth was the runner, and he subsequently stole second, scoring on J.J. Hardy's single. Rangers starter Yu Darvish got out of the inning with two strikeouts and a pop-up, with the Orioles leading 1-0.

You think that'd be enough for Joe Saunders, but no. Ian Kinsler walked to lead off the game for the Rangers, and he made it to third on an Elvis Andrus single. A bittersweet Josh Hamilton double play tied the game back up at one, but it also killed the rally. Adrian Beltre flew out to end the inning.

Worth noting: Buck Showalter had the bullpen going when there were two on and no outs in the first. Any sort of dilly-dallying and assorted incompetence, and Saunders is gone. Showalter isn't messing around.


AL Wild Card Game: Orioles Lineup

The Baltimore Orioles are in the postseason for the first time since 1997. Congratulations! Now win this game or go home.

If it seems cruel, that's because it is. But them's the breaks, and here's the lineup the Orioles are going with against Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers:

1. Nate McLouth* - LF
2. J.J. Hardy - SS
3. Chris Davis* - RF
4. Adam Jones - CF
5. Matt Wieters# - C
6. Jim Thome* - DH
7. Mark Reynolds - 1B
8. Ryan Flaherty* - 2B
9. Manny Machado - 3B
x. Joe Saunders - LHP

There's nothing like that moment when you look up and realize that Nate McLouth is hitting leadoff for the Orioles in a playoff game. Looking forward to next year, when Aaron Rowand is hitting cleanup for the Royals in the ALDS.

It's not exactly a lefty- or switch-heavy lineup, but there are a few bumps in there for Darvish. Of course, Darvish doesn't really have any platoon splits, so it's not like it makes a difference.


Bob Melvin vs. Buck Showalter: Cage Match!

When it comes to the American League's Manager of the Year, how can one possible choose between the two Miracle Managers?


Feeling better about Joe Saunders

Rooting for the Orioles? A little nervous about Friday's game because Joe Saunders is pitching? We have your back. Kind of.

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