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Matchup for AL wild-card playoff game

By Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune –

American League wild-card playoff: Rangers vs. Orioles


Starters: Yu Darvish was imported from Japan to win big games, and this is the biggest they’ve played since the two losses in St. Louis last October. The two rested arms for the Orioles are Joe Saunders, who will start, and rookie Steve Johnson. Their best starter, Chris Tillman, went in Game 162. Edge: Rangers

Bullpen: No team had fewer blown saves in the second half of the season than the Rangers, but relievers weren’t able to stop the sweep in Oakland. The Orioles’ Jim Johnson led the majors with 51 saves and has a solid group in front of him. Edge: Orioles

Hitting: Both launch a ton of long balls, but the Rangers do a little better job getting men on base. One cause for major concern in Texas is Josh Hamilton has one homer since Sept. 14. Nate McLouth hit the Orioles’ only homer in three games at Rangers Ballpark in an August series. Edge: Rangers

Fielding: Neither did a good job preventing unearned runs during the season, but the Orioles have been better since adding 20-year-old shortstop Manny Machado as the regular third baseman. Texas will be weakened if Adrian Beltre can’t play third base. Edge: Orioles

Bench: The loss of Nick Markakis thinned the Orioles’ bench. Edge: Rangers

Manager: The Pythagorean standings show Buck Showalter won 93 games with a team that should have gone 82-80. The Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra-inning games. Edge: Orioles

Gut read: Darvish (4-0, 1.86 ERA in his last six starts) is the most likely difference-maker. The key for the O’s is getting to him early, as the Rangers’ confidence likely went out the window when the A’s made up a 13-game lead in the AL West.


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