Not everyone is really sure that the way Major League Baseball chose to expand the playoffs is the right one, but the first chance to find out will be the Baltimore Orioles playing the Texas Rangers in a one-game wild card playoff clash, opening the 2012 Baseball postseason.
Yu Darvish, who had a fantastic debut season after arriving from Japan, hasn’t faced the Orioles this season, the only AL team he hasn’t pitched against. Darvish finished with a 16-9 record (6th in the AL in wins) with a 3.90 ERA. He was fifth with 221 strikeouts (10.4 per 9 innings), and hasn’t lost a decision since August 17.
Joe Saunders isn’t just the inferior pitcher – he has never won in Arlington. He has gone 3-3 since leaving Arizona for the AL East with a 3.63 ERA. He is 3-7 with a 6.48 ERA in 11 career starts against Texas, including 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in six previous starts at Rangers Ballpark.
Despite being the offensive juggernaut in the majors, leading both leagues in runs, ranking 3rd in batting average (.273), 4th in getting on base (.334) and 2nd in slugging (.446), they have finished the season going 4-9, including getting swept by the A’s in the final series, which lost them the AL West lead and division title. The only other time they got swept in a series in 2012 was back in July against the White Sox.
In the season series between the two teams, the Rangers won it 5-2, including 2-1 at home. Buck Showalter, the first Orioles manager to take them into the postseason in 15 years, isn’t worried about the numbers being against his team and the starting pitcher he chose for the game.
You can make numbers any way you want to. If you’re looking for pitchers with good numbers against the Texas Rangers, they’re hard to find.
But the numbers are overwhelming The Rangers scored 10 runs or more three times during the meetings between the two teams, while Josh Hamilton hit his famous four-home run game on May 8. He is .357 against the Orioles this season, hitting six home runs and 12 RBIs. Along with Adrian Beltre (36 home runs), the two have the most homers by a big league pair this season, with 79.
Injuries are also a factor, and even them shift towards picking the Rangers. Nick Markakis and Wilson Betemit are out of the game for the Orioles, while the Rangers have injuries limiting Michael Young and Adrian Beltre, but they’re still going to play.
Prediction – The Orioles are one of those teams that the number don’t show just how good they were this season, but the Rangers are simply a better team, with a much better and productive lineup, going against a pitcher who never plays well against them. Hard to look past them advancing in this one.