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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' Adam Jones purchases Cal Ripken Jr.'s former estate, per report

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Orioles' Adam Jones purchases Cal Ripken Jr.'s former estate, per report

Cal Ripken Jr.'s 25-acre, 8,545 square-foot home went up for auction this past Saturday and the highest bidder was......Adam Jones? 

The center fielder is purchasing the Orioles legend's former Reisterstown, Md. estate, according to The Athletic

Placed on the market in 2016 for $12.5 million, Ripken reduced the price to $9.7 million last year but was still unable to find a willing buyer. The estate was eventually put up for auction and sold to Jones for an undisclosed amount. 

The six bedroom home has 10 full bathrooms, a movie theater, a gym that overlooks an indoor basketball court, a pool and a baseball field with batting cages, a locker room and soaking tubs. One of the tubs was taken from Memorial Stadium and used by Johnny Unitas and Art Donovan, but Ripken is keeping that one. 

What makes this purchase even more interesting is that Jones will become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, but that does not mean he plans on re-signing with the team. The 32-year old, who is in his last year of a six-year $85.5 million contract, is known to dip his toes in real estate investments and his wife, Audie Fugett, is a Baltimore native. 

The deal is scheduled to close on June 11. 

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David Price's complete game shuts down Baltimore's offense

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David Price's complete game shuts down Baltimore's offense

BOSTON -- One strike away from a four-hit shutout, David Price happily settled for a complete game and his strongest outing of the season.

Price struck out eight and held Baltimore to five hits, including two in the ninth when the Orioles broke up the shutout before the Boston left-hander finished them off in a 6-2 victory for the Red Sox on Thursday night.

"He was amazing," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "He was outstanding. You saw it. Bad swings, up, down, in and out, changeup, cutter, sinkers ... that was fun to watch."

J.D. Martinez hit a two-run homer in the first, and Xander Bogaerts homered with two on during a four-run fifth, giving Price more than enough cushion against the struggling Orioles.

Price (4-4) struck out eight and didn't walk a batter while winning consecutive starts for the first time this season. He cruised through the first eight innings before Andrew Susac led off the ninth with a double, the first Baltimore player to reach second base in the game.

Manny Machado spoiled the shutout bid with a two-out homer, but Price finished off Baltimore on Jonathan Schoop's pop-up to center as the Red Sox improved to 4-0 against Baltimore by taking the makeup game that was rained out on Patriots' Day.

"They're a free-swinging team," said Price, who threw just 95 pitches. "You can go out there and do that or you can go out there for three innings and give up a bunch of runs."

Danny Valencia had a pair of hits for the punchless Orioles, who have lost three of four and have the second-fewest wins in the American League. Valencia nearly had a double in the fifth, but got thrown out at second by left fielder Andrew Benintendi, one of several strong defensive plays that helped Price go the distance.

Hanley Ramirez also caught a foul pop on the top step of Boston's dugout in the second and Mookie Betts ran down a fly ball that was headed to the wall in right.

"The defensive plays that I had today, it makes everything a lot easier," Price said.

Kevin Gausman (3-3) went 4 2/3 innings for Baltimore, allowing six runs and eight hits while striking out six and walking two. He was pulled after Bogaerts drove a high fastball out to left with two men on during Boston's four-run fifth.

"We just got into some sticky situations where we just had to dig ourselves out of a hole and we just couldn't," Susac said.

The Orioles also weren't happy with the strike zone, which Susac said forced Gausman to throw some pitches the Red Sox pounced upon.

Manager Buck Showalter agreed with his catcher.

"I'm very biased, but I didn't think he got a fair shake tonight," Showalter said. "There were a lot of pitches that could have and should have gone his way."

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