In a season where practically no one gave the Baltimore Orioles any sort of chance at competing in the division let alone making the playoffs, the Orioles continued to buck the trend with an impressive wild card win against the Texas Rangers on October 5 by the score of 5-1 and will now go on to face the New York Yankees in the next round.
It was certainly a questionable move for Buck Showalter to put Joe Saunders on the mound in one of the most important games for the team in some time, but as he has shown all season, Buck just has a knack for putting in the right players at the right time, and it continued in the wild card game with Saunders. Joe pitched an efficient game right from the start, going nearly six innings on 77 pitches while giving up one run on six hits to go along with four strikeouts as well. To say it was a surprising performance would be an understatement, and it really exemplifies how the Orioles have been playing the entire year, with players just coming out of nowhere (Chris Tillman, Jim Johnson, Miguel Gonzalez, Manny Machado) and contributing in a significant manner. That is what really makes the Orioles a dangerous team to watch this postseason in my view, and I wouldn't be surprised if they made it past the ALDS and beyond.
The offensive player of the game in my view was Nate McLouth, who went 1 for 5 with two RBI's (single, sacrifice fly) and really helped to break the game open for the Orioles in the seventh inning to make it a 3-1 game. In a game that saw the 3-4-5 hitters going 1 for 11 on the night, the role players stepped it up big, including J.J. Hardy as well with an RBI single in the first inning to get the team started off on a good note. If Baltimore can somehow continue to be productive throughout the lineup and not have to rely upon Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, or Mark Reynolds for all of the offensive production, they should be able to give the New York Yankees a run for their money (both literally and figuratively), especially considering that the first two games will be played at Camden Yards.
Ryan Kekoufski has been following the Baltimore Orioles since Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak, and still enjoys watching games at Camden Yards from time to time.
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- Joe Saunders
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