A look at the American League wild-card playoff between the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers:
Schedule: Friday, at Arlington, Texas (8:37 p.m. EDT). (TBS).
Season Series: Rangers won 5-2.
Orioles: LF Nate McLouth (.268, 7 HRs, 18 RBIs, 12 SBs), SS J.J. Hardy (.238, 22, 68), RF Chris Davis (.270, 33, 85, 169 Ks), CF Adam Jones (.287, 32, 82, 16 SBs), C Matt Wieters (.249, 23, 83), DH Jim Thome (.257, 3, 10 in 28 games), 1B Mark Reynolds (.221, 23, 69), 2B Ryan Flaherty (.216, 6, 19), 3B Manny Machado (.262, 7, 26).
Rangers: 2B Ian Kinsler (.256, 19, 72, 21 SBs, 105 runs), SS Elvis Andrus (.286, 3, 62, 21 SBs), CF Josh Hamilton (.285, 43, 128, 162 Ks, 60 BBs, 103 runs), 3B Adrian Beltre (.321, 36, 102), RF Nelson Cruz (.260, 24, 90), DH Michael Young (.277, 8, 67), LF David Murphy (.304, 15, 61), C Mike Napoli (.227, 24, 56), 1B Mitch Moreland (.275, 15, 50).
Orioles: LHP Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63 ERA, 23 Ks, 8 BBs in 44 2-3 innings over 7 starts with Orioles).
Rangers: RH Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90, 221 Ks, 191 1-3 IP).
Orioles: RH Jim Johnson (2-1, 2.49, major league-leading 51/54 saves), RH Pedro Strop (5-2, 2.44, 3 saves, 58 Ks in 66 1-3 IP), RH Darren O'Day (7-1, 2.28, 2 saves in 69 games), RH Luis Ayala (5-5, 2.64), LH Brian Matusz (6-10, 4.87 in 34 games, 16 starts), RH Tommy Hunter (7-8, 5.45, 32 HRs in 33 games, 20 starts), LH Troy Patton (1-0, 2.43 ERA in 54 games).
Rangers: RH Joe Nathan (3-5, 2.80, 37/40 saves, 78 Ks, 64 1-3 IP), RH Alexi Ogando (2-0, 3.27, 3 saves, 66 Ks, 66 IP), RH Koji Uehara (0-0, 1.75, 37 appearances), LH Robbie Ross (6-0, 2.22 in 58 appearances), RH Scott Feldman (6-11, 5.09 in 29 games, 21 starts), RH Roy Oswalt (4-3, 5.80 in 17 games, 9 starts), LH Michael Kirkman (1-2, 3.82), RH Mark Lowe (0-2, 3.43).
Hamilton became the 16th player in major league history with four homers in a game, May 8 in a 10-3 win at Baltimore. He was 5 for 5 with an AL-record 18 total bases. Hamilton has 11 career homers in 38 games against the Orioles. ... Baltimore is the only AL team that Darvish, the 26-year-old rookie from Japan, didn't face in the regular season. ... The Rangers acquired Uehara from Baltimore in a trade on July 31, 2011, a deal that sent Davis and Hunter to the O's. ... Before giving up two-out single to Oakland's Brandon Moss in his last regular-season appearance, Uehara had retired 25 consecutive batters (15 strikeouts). ... Texas scored at least 10 runs three times against the O's this season. ... Orioles skipper Buck Showalter was the Rangers' manager from 2002-06 before being fired and replaced by Ron Washington. Showalter was 319-329 with the Rangers and never finished better than third in the AL West, even during an 89-win season in 2004 when Texas remained in the division chase until the final week. ... Kinsler's rookie season was in 2006 under Showalter. Other Texas players who were around under Showalter are Cruz, Feldman, injured pitcher Colby Lewis and Young. ... Cruz is a .366 hitter with six homers and 30 RBIs in 35 career games vs. Baltimore. ... Nathan made two non-save appearances vs. Baltimore this season, with four strikeouts in two innings. In 19 career appearances, he has converted all 10 save chances while allowing four runs with 25 strikeouts in 20 innings. ... Texas went 5-1 last year against the Orioles, then opened this season's series between the teams with wins of 14-3 and 10-3, a big reason why Baltimore had a negative run-differential until September. The Rangers also won 12-3 on Aug. 22. Baltimore's two wins in the series this year were by scores of 6-5 and 5-3.
Orioles: First playoff appearance for Baltimore since 1997. Orioles (93-69) were in competition for AL East title until final day, then lost 4-1 at Tampa Bay to end up on road in wild-card round. ... Baltimore had 14 consecutive losing seasons and four straight last-place finishes before turning it around under Showalter, now in his second full season. This is also Dan Duquette's first season as executive vice president of baseball operations. Through shrewd trades and free-agents additions, he added much-needed depth to a thin roster. ... Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games and have won amazing 16 straight in extra innings. ... Johnson's 51 saves are a club record, shattering Randy Myers' mark of 45 in 1997. ... Davis homered in six straight games before streak ended in regular-season finale. His late push enabled him to overtake Jones as team leader in HRs and RBIs. ... Machado was playing for Double-A Bowie when the Orioles purchased his contract on Aug. 9 and made him the starting 3B. Although groomed to be a shortstop, the 20-year-old rookie has handled the hot corner efficiently and showed surprising punch at the plate. ... Jones played in all 162 games. Orioles are 23-8 when he homers.
Rangers: Instead of winning their third consecutive AL West title, which for so much of the season seemed a foregone conclusion for the two-time defending AL champs, the Rangers (93-69) instead lost nine of their last 13 games. That was their worst such stretch all season. ... Texas was 17-6 in April and went on to spend 178 days overall in first place. That was the most in the majors this season, and the most for any team in major league history that failed to win a division title. ... Texas won 14 of its last 16 regular-season games last season. ... Needing to win only once in the final series of the season to win the division, Texas was instead swept by Oakland, which overcame a 13-game deficit to take the title on the final day. The only other time Texas was swept in a series of at least three games was July 3-5 at the Chicago White Sox. ... Hamilton and Beltre have the most homers by any pair of teammates in the majors. It's the most for a Rangers duo since 2005 with Mark Teixeira (43) and Alfonso Soriano (36). ... After his four-homer game in Baltimore, Hamilton was on a Triple Crown pace, leading the AL in hitting (.406) with 14 homers and 36 RBIs. In 48 games between June 1 and Aug. 1, he hit a paltry .197 with eight homers and 28 RBIs. ... Hamilton is eligible for free agency after the season, and the Rangers might not be willing to pay the lofty price the former AL MVP and batting champion could demand. ... For the first time under Washington, who is in his sixth season, the Rangers didn't increase their win total from the previous year. They won a franchise-record 96 games last year. ... Texas had seven players who appeared in at least 147 games. Five of them (Beltre, Andrus, Young, Cruz and Kinsler) played 155 games, a club record. ... The Rangers had a franchise-low 85 errors in the regular season, two less than their 1996 total. The 99 errorless games was another franchise record. ... Texas made three errors in the last game, including Hamilton's dropped fly ball that put the A's ahead to stay . ... Kinsler hit .293 at home and .220 on the road. ... Colby Lewis (forearm) and Neftali Felix (elbow), who were both in Texas' opening-day rotation, were lost to season-ending injuries. Oswalt, a three-time All-Star and a free agent Texas considered last winter, joined the team at the end of June. A month later, he was working out of the bullpen and spot starting after the Rangers obtained Ryan Dempster in a trade from the Chicago Cubs.
- Going Deep. These Orioles are patterned after those Earl Weaver teams of long ago. Rarely do they seek to manufacture runs with bunts and steals; rather, they rely on the three-run homer. The formula has worked. Baltimore hit 127 homers at Camden Yards, its most at home in one season.
- Banged-Up Beltre. A top-five MVP candidate with his performance at the plate and in the field (career-low eight errors), Beltre was the DH during the final series in Oakland because of a strained left shoulder. He has also been dealing with stomach pain caused by what doctors believe is scar tissue from appendix surgery more than a decade ago, and could require additional surgery after the season.
- Closing Time: If the Orioles take a lead into the ninth, Johnson is a pretty good bet to seal the win. He hasn't blown a save opportunity since July 27 and has 20 saves and an ERA under 1.00 since July 30. The right-hander didn't allow an earned run until May 10 and hasn't given up a HR since June 5. The only players on the Rangers with homers against Johnson are Murphy and Kinsler. Johnson's 2.49 ERA would be a whole lot better if not for two appearances in which he yielded a total of 11 runs. He allowed 10 runs in his other 69 games.