ARLINGTON, Tex. Late Thursday afternoon, the Orioles took batting practice at the empty Rangers Ballpark.They needed it.After being held to five hits in the last two games and losing two of three at Tampa Bay, the Orioles will try to win the first-ever American League Wild Card Game.The Orioles will face the slumping Texas Rangers. Texas led the AL West handily all season, lost seven of nine, including three straight to Oakland, and they shockingly found themselves in the Wild Card Game.The Orioles lost five of seven to the Rangers, and were outscored 56-24.When we get beat, we dont mess around, manager Buck Showalter said.Texas won the last two American League titles and were on the verge of winning the World Series last season in the sixth game. Theyre trying to be the first three-time AL champions since the Yankees won four straight from 1998-2001.I read into it that theyre real good. They are, Showalter said.He managed the Rangers from 2002-6, and maintains an off-season home in Dallas.
Five Orioles: Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Darren ODay, Pedro Strop and Taylor Teagarden, played for the Rangers as recently as last season. Three of Showalters coaches, Rick Adair (pitching), Wayne Kirby (first base) and DeMarlo Hale (third base) also worked for the Rangers. The fact that were in Texas is kind of ironic, Davis said.I think just being in the postseason is good enough for us.
The Orioles get to the postseason with an identical record to the Rangers93-69. Its a 24-game improvement from a year ago, which is extraordinary.After a hot start, the Orioles cooled off for nearly two months. In mid-July, their record was 46-44, and they finished 47-25. The American League is so difficult that even with a second Wild Card team, the Rays, who won 90 games, didnt qualify. Last Sunday, the Orioles left Baltimore, certain theyd get to play at home again, either as AL East champs, in a tiebreaker against the Yankees or as top Wild Card team.Instead, after losing two of three at Tampa Bay, they have to play this most difficult I dont think most people thought that Oakland would come back and beat them, Adam Jones said.They handled their business and changed scenarios.Texas is sending Japanese import Yu Darvish to face Baltimore on Friday.Darvish (16-9, 3.90) struck out 221 batters in 191 13 innings. He also hit 10 batters, so Jones, who was hurt 13 times, might have to watch out.He throws 94, 95 mph. He throws cutters, sliders, curveballs. He can spot up on you. Hes a big guy, Jones said.We can try and build a scouting report on him as the game is going on.A year ago, the Orioles declined to bid on Darvish, who signed a six-year, 56 million contract with the Rangers last winter.A lot of different pitches, probably some pauses in his windup, Davis said.We know his reputation. Were going to look at him on tape probably today or tomorrow and try and get a gameplan and go after him.When asked his opinion about Darvish, Showalter joked: Hes an expensive one.
A moment later, he talked about Wei-Yin Chens high praise for Darvish and amended his assessment.Hes pretty special, Showalter said.The Orioles must find a way to get to Darvish. If they can, they will host their first home playoff game since 1997.If the Orioles win, theyll host New York for two division games on Sunday and Monday. If they lose, theyll disappoint their fans who were counting on a least one game at home. We grinded like heck for a chance to roll the dice to have a chance to win in October, Showalter said.Were trying everything possible to get back to Baltimore.