|Despite a poor career record against the Rangers, Joe Saunders pitches the Orioles into the divisional round. (US Presswire)|
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles keep shocking us.
So do the Rangers.
The Orioles' amazing story has a new chapter. The Rangers' stunning collapse is complete, with a Friday night wild-card game loss that sends the Orioles on to a fascinating Division Series matchup with the Yankees.
|More on Orioles-Rangers|
We'll keep asking how the Orioles are doing this. We'll also be asking how the Rangers did this.
Ten days ago, they led the American League West by five games. From April to September, they led the division.
In October, they never won a game. Three straight losses in Oakland to hand the division to the surprising A's, followed quickly by a 5-1 loss to the equally surprising O's and a surprisingly early winter.
Even before Friday night, club president Nolan Ryan's mood was "ornery," according to some Rangers people. He can't be any happier now.
It doesn't appear that manager Ron Washington's job is in jeopardy, but this collapse came on so quickly that it's hard to predict what the reaction will be.
The Rangers can now compete with their rivals the Angels for "disappointing team of the year" status. The Orioles can resume their coast-to-coast battle with the A's for "best story of the year" status.
Friday's chapter was a good one.
The Orioles started Joe Saunders, who had terrible numbers against the Rangers and worse numbers at Rangers Ballpark. They started him in part because when they set up their rotation for this week, they assumed that a wild-card game would be against the A's, and Saunders has very good numbers against Oakland.
Manager Buck Showalter was so uncertain about Saunders that when the left-hander began the game with a walk and a base hit, Showalter had Steve Johnson begin to warm up in the Orioles bullpen. Just then, Saunders got Josh Hamilton to bounce into a double play, beginning a horrible night for Hamilton and turning Saunders' (and the Orioles') night good.
By the time Saunders departed, two outs into the sixth inning, the Orioles led 2-1. Then they did what they'd done all year, holding onto a tight lead.
They ended up with one more win that so many thought they wouldn't get.
The Rangers ended up with one more loss, in a game that no one had expected them to play.