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Rangers in unexpected spot vs O's in AL wild card

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Rangers in unexpected spot vs O's in AL wild card

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) After a grinding stretch when the Texas Rangers lost nine of their last 13 games, and the AL West crown in the process, manager Ron Washington gave his players the day off Thursday.

They get a chance to start fresh Friday.

One chance - or the season will be over for the two-time defending American League champions long before another World Series.

``I don't feel any different,'' Washington said. ``Other than the fact we have an opportunity to get back in the playoffs if we win a ball game.''

Still, the team that twice came within a strike of winning last year's World Series, never expected to be in this kind of postseason situation.

Instead of winning another division title, after being in first place for a majors-high 178 days this season, Texas hosts a winner-take-all AL wild-card ga,e Friday night against Baltimore and former manager Buck Showalter.

Yu Darvish makes his MLB postseason debut for the Rangers against the only AL team the right-hander from Japan didn't face this season. Lefty Joe Saunders, a late-season acquisition by the Orioles, has never won at Rangers Ballpark.

The winner goes on to play the New York Yankees, another of Showalter's former employers, in the AL division series and will host the first two games.

Baltimore is in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Showalter, hired by the Orioles midway through the 2010 season, dismissed any notion that it means more to him getting to face Texas, where he managed for four years and then was replaced by Washington after the 2006 season.

``For our players and organization to get an opportunity, it's rewarding. We're trying to do everything possible to get back to Baltimore,'' Showalter said. ``Personally, I thanked the players for letting me come along for the ride. `'

Just a week ago, Texas had a four-game division lead with six to play after splitting a four-game series at home against Oakland. The Rangers lost five of those last six games, including a three-game sweep this week against the A's, who clinched the division title on the last day of the regular season with a 12-5 victory.

The Rangers had a 5-1 lead in the season finale before Oakland's big comeback, including center fielder Josh Hamilton missing a popup for a two-base error with two outs that allowed two runs to score and broke a 5-all tie.

The 4-9 span is their worst such slide of the season. The only other time they were swept in a three-game series was the first week of July at the Chicago White Sox.

``Just like any of our fans or anyone involved with our organization, there was a level of disappointment at first. A chance to win the division, and we couldn't put it away,'' general manager Jon Daniels said. ``Then you take a step back and realize there are 20 teams that would kill to be where we are right now and would trade places with us in a heartbeat. ... We've got one of our best pitchers on the mound at home.''

While Darvish (16-9) is a rookie in the majors, the 26-year-old starter had plenty of postseason experience before the Rangers committed more than $107 million last winter to acquire Japan's top pitcher. He was 8-2 with a 1.38 ERA and five complete games in 11 postseason starts for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters from 2006-11.

``He's an expensive one,'' Showalter said. ``He's impressive. They gotten a return on everything they've invested. He's pretty special.''

The Orioles acquired Saunders (9-13 overall, including 3-3 in seven starts for Baltimore) on Aug. 26 from Arizona. The lefty has previous playoff experience for the Los Angeles Angels.

But Saunders 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.

``You can make numbers any way you want to,'' Showalter said. ``If you're looking for pitchers with good numbers against the Texas Rangers, they're hard to find.''

It has been more than two years since Saunders pitched in Texas, and he allowed only one run in seven innings then. Now the Virginia native who grew up an Orioles fan is starting their biggest game of the season.

``It's a huge opportunity. It's been a blessing since I got traded over here, it's been an amazing experience,'' he said. ``It'd be really nice to get a win for the club and get a playoff game back home. That's what this organization is asking me to do.''

Texas won five of the seven games in the regular season and scored at least 10 runs three times. That includes the May 8 game in Baltimore when Hamilton, the free-agent-to-be slugger, became the 16th player in major league history with four homers in a game.

Hamilton (43) and Adrian Beltre (36), the standout defensive third baseman limited to being the designated hitter against Oakland because of a strained left shoulder, have the most homers by a pair of big league teammates this season.

The Orioles have a pair of 30-homer hitters in Adam Jones (32) and Chris Davis (33), who is among seven former Rangers playing for Baltimore.

Davis was traded to the O's with right-hander Tommy Hunter in July 2011 for Koji Uehara, the righty reliever who retired 25 consecutive batters for Texas before giving up a single in his last outing.

``The big thing for us was coming in August and playing these guys and kind of dealing with the emotions of being back, being on the other side of things,'' Davis said. ``Right now we're definitely excited to be in the postseason, and we really don't care who our opponent is. ... We're just glad to be in this situation.''

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

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USA Today Sports

Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm