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AL Wild Card Game: Orioles @ Rangers, 8:37pm

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The Orioles take on the Rangers for one game in Arlington. The winner moves on to the American League Division Series. The loser goes home.

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Where were you fifteen years ago, when the Orioles were last in the playoffs? Some among you may have not even been alive. Some may have been alive but not conscious of the Orioles. All of us, even those who were grown in 1997, were in different places in life. I was in 9th grade. My ten year high school reunion was last year. Sometimes I wondered if the Orioles would ever be good again. Here we are anyway. It's been pretty cool, but I hope it doesn't end tonight.

You already know what a challenge they face in the Rangers in this game. Yu Darvish and his absurd strikeout rate. Darvish, who hasn't walked more than two batters in his last eight starts, hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in that same span of time, and has struck out at least six in those starts as well. In all, he struck out ten or more batters in eight of his starts this year. The Orioles generally seem to lack pitch recognition and plate discipline. Darvish can throw like any pitch. He did not face the O's this year.

It's fitting that the lineup for this game is going to be the same kind of hodge-podge that helped to get them so far. Chris Davis in right field? Nate McLouth in left? Jim Thome the DH? Joe Saunders the starting pitcher? The bizarre and unlikely has paid off in a big way for the Orioles so far this year. No reason to change that now, although we will be finding out in a hurry whether Dan Duquette might have the same problem as Billy Beane, in that his shit may not work in the playoffs. The patchwork, frequently-changing roster that got through 162 games is frozen in place for this game. They are not the favorites on paper, but they could still find a way to win. They have done it already this year.

No one scored more runs this year than the Rangers. They have a lineup loaded with power righties against Saunders, who may not be long for the game. The key question is whether Saunders can manage to hold on for just long enough - perhaps only one time through the order - to let the O's get into a bullpen that's packed for this one game. Tommy Hunter and Jake Arrieta could be asked to log key innings in relief, if it gets to the point where innings 4-6 are key. If Saunders doesn't get blasted. Darvish probably will not get blasted.

The longer the game stays close, the more it does swing towards the Orioles - on paper, anyway. The bullpen is a strength. Late-inning heroics have been a thing we have seen plenty from them this season. Can they get to that point? I don't know, man. I can't look at this game rationally. I don't even know what to do. All I can tell you is that I've got a lot of National Bohemian beer ready to be consumed - whether it ends up being a drunken celebration or drunken mourning, I do not know, but drunken is the only way I'll be able to handle it.

Go Orioles! Some day I will be happy with you no matter what happens tonight, but tonight I would like very much if you would win.


Nate McLouth - LF Ian Kinsler - 2B
J.J. Hardy - SS Elvis Andrus - SS
Chris Davis - RF Josh Hamilton - LF
Adam Jones - CF Adrian Beltre - 3B
Matt Wieters - C Nelson Cruz - RF
Jim Thome -DH Michael Young - 1B
Mark Reynolds - 1B Mike Napoli - DH
Ryan Flaherty - 2B Geovany Soto - C
Manny Machado - 3B Craig Gentry - CF