Saunders, McLouth power Orioles over Rangers; Yanks on deck
Arlington, TX, United States (4E Sports) – Veteran Joe Saunders threw 5 2/3 strong innings and Nate McLouth drove in two runs to lift the Baltimore Orioles to the American League Division Series with a 5-1 wild-card playoff victory over two-time AL champion Texas Rangers Friday at Rangers Ballpark.
Saunders (1-0) absorbed just one earned run on six hits with four strikeouts and kept Rangers sluggers Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre hitless in six at-bats to help the Orioles advance against the New York Yankees in a best-of-five series starting Sunday at Camden Yards.
The victory gave Baltimore its first playoff win since Oct. 13, 1997 when the Orioles beat Cleveland and made their breakthrough season even much memorable.
“It just says a lot about this team, all the heart, and I’m just so thankful to be a part of it. It’s a special experience,” said Saunders, who became the first pitcher in Major League history to start a postseason game at a ballpark in which he is 0-6 or worse in his career.
“As a baseball player and an athlete, you always want to prove people wrong. We strive on that, and I strive on that, too,” Saunders said. “No one really gave me a chance, and I wanted to go out there and prove people wrong.”
J.J. Hardy put the Orioles ahead with an RBI single against Japanese starter Yu Darvish but the Rangers tied the count behind Hamilton’s RBI groundout in the bottom part of the opening frame.
However, that was all the Rangers could muster against Saunders, who did not allow another run until he was relieved by Darren O’Day in the sixth.
“It all starts with Joe Saunders and the outing he gave us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s had two good outings in a row, and felt like if he could get his feet on the ground, all the emotion around the ballpark, you could see the experience that he’s had play out.”
In the sixth, the Orioles again scored against Darvish behind Adam Jones sacrifice fly that broke a 1-1 deadlock. McLouth added another run in the seventh with an RBI single against Derek Holland.
The Orioles added a pair of runs off Rangers closer Joe Nathan in the ninth, courtesy of McLouth’s sacrifice fly and Manny Machado’s RBI single.
The loss was a painful one for the Rangers, who led the AL West by five games on Sept. 24 with a record of 91-62. Then they lost seven of their last nine games in the regular season, letting the division title slip away and forcing them into the Wild Card game.
“We just fell into a funk, plain and simple,” closer Joe Nathan said. “We know we’re better than this, but we didn’t play good when we needed to.”
Against the Yankees, Showalter may start Jason Hammel to face New York ace CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the Division Series.