ARLINGTON, Texas – Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles will get another chance to overtake the New York Yankees.
The surprising O’s have already beaten some big odds, getting past the two-time defending A.L. champion Texas Rangers and their Japanese ace, Yu Darvish, in the win-or-go-home wild-card playoff.
Joe Saunders pitched effectively into the sixth inning at a place where he had never won, Adam Jones delivered the tiebreaking sacrifice fly and the Orioles, in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, eliminated the Rangers 5-1 Friday night.
“With our team it’s just a bunch of guys that raised the bar and wouldn’t give in and still haven’t,” said Showalter, their manager.
The Orioles advanced to play the East champion Yankees, the A.L.’s top seed. The teams split 18 games this season. The best-of-5 series starts Sunday at Camden Yards.
The upstart Orioles spent the whole second half chasing the Yankees, never passing them and falling just short in a neck-and-neck race for the division title.
Turns out, the Yankees haven’t brushed off these Birds just yet.
“Real proud of everybody. Tacking on runs were big, knew they were going to run at you,” Showalter said. “But just a real proud moment for us.
“Our guys approached it and we talked about it being sudden life instead of sudden death, and we played that way. You’ve got to seize the opportunity. We don’t get many,” Showalter added.
After twice coming within a strike of winning last year’s World Series, this season is over that quickly for the Rangers, who were in first place for a majors-high 178 days this season. Texas loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth before David Murphy flied out to end it.
“We just didn’t get it done,” manager Ron Washington said.
The Rangers lost the A.L. West crown on the final day of the regular season, after being swept in three games at Oakland for a stretch of nine losses in their last 13 games.
“I’m not stunned, I was right there watching it,” Washington said.
Their worst slump of the season came at the wrong time for Texas, which a week ago had a four-game division lead with six games to play.
“To be honest with you I never thought anything like this would happen,” Washington said.