Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Baltimore Orioles knock out Texas Rangers in AL wild card

ARLINGTON, Texas — Buck Showalter and the Orioles will get another chance to overtake the Yankees.

The surprising Orioles got past the two-time defending AL champion Rangers and their Japanese ace, Yu Darvish, in the win-or-go-home AL wild-card playoff.

Joe Saunders pitched effectively into the sixth at a place where he had never won, Adam Jones delivered the tiebreaking sacrifice fly and the Orioles, in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, eliminated the Rangers 5-1 Friday night.

The Orioles advance to play the East champion Yankees; the teams split 18 games this season. The best-of-five division series starts Sunday at Camden Yards.

The Orioles spent the whole second half chasing the Yankees, never passing them and falling just short of the East title.

And just that quickly, the season is over the Rangers, who were in first place for a majors-high 178 days this season. Texas loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth before David Murphy flied out to end it.

The Rangers lost the West crown on the final day of the regular season, after being swept in three games at Oakland for a stretch of nine losses their last 13 games.

Their worst slump of the season came at the wrong time for Ron Washington's team, which a week ago had a four-game division lead with six games to play. When the Rangers committed more than $107 million last winter to acquire Darvish, they did so with the anticipation he'd be on the mound for many big games.

They never would have expected him being outdueled in a playoff game by Saunders, a late-season addition by the Orioles who had lost all six of his previous starts with a 9.38 ERA at Rangers Ballpark.

Saunders quickly gave up the Orioles' 1-0 lead in the first, but that was the only run he allowed in 5? innings. The left-hander struck out four and walked one.

Four pitches in, they had a lead against Darvish, who struck out seven in 6? innings.

Nate McLouth grounded Darvish's first pitch toward first baseman Michael Young. The longest-tenured Ranger was charged with an error when he tried to backhand the ball and it ricocheted away. McLouth stole second, then J.J. Hardy drove him in with a single up the middle.

The Orioles had consecutive singles to start the sixth before Jones' sacrifice fly made it 2-1.

Even though it was the postseason, the Orioles stuck to the regular Friday night uniforms, including black tops and caps with script O's instead of the smiling cartoon bird.

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