ARLINGTON, Texas - Orioles manager Buck Showalter always says he can’t wait to find out what the boys have in store for him.
Tonight, they won the wild card game and finally got to celebrate.
No wonder he couldn’t wait.
Joe Saunders held the Rangers to one run over 5 2/3 innings, and the bullpen worked its usual magic in a 5-1 victory over the Rangers.
Darren O’Day retired six of the seven batters he faced, permitting only an infield hit to Ian Kinsler in the eighth with the Orioles leading 3-1. His throwing error allowed Kinsler to take second base with one out, but Elvis Andrus bounced to short and Brian Matusz struck out Josh Hamilton, who may have played his last game with the Rangers.
Hamilton is 0-for-10 with six strikeouts lifetime against Matusz. Showalter found the right match-up and took full advantage of it.
Jim Thome walked in the top of the ninth and took third on Robert Andino’s double - the first extra-base hit of the game after 13 singles. Pinch-runner Lew Ford scored on Manny Machado’s single off Joe Nathan, and fans began streaming for the exits.
They had no reason to turn back after Nate McLouth’s sacrifice fly, his second RBI of the night.
Jim Johnson handled the ninth in a non-save situation, loaded the bases and retired David Murphy on a fly ball to McLouth for the final out, assuring that the Rangers wouldn’t return to the World Series for a third straight year and unleashing players from the Orioles’ dugout.
The Orioles hadn’t won in the playoffs since Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians on Oct. 13, 1997. The winning pitcher? Scott Kamieniecki.
The Orioles will hold a workout Saturday afternoon at Camden Yards - not open to the public - and host the first two games of the Division Series against the Yankees on Sunday and Monday. Game 3 is Wednesday night in the Bronx.
With the win, the Orioles improved to 75-0 when leading after the seventh inning and 76-1 when leading after the eighth. They’re 1-0 with Saunders starting a playoff game and when Steve Johnson warms up in the bottom of the first inning.
You can look it up.
Showalter hasn’t announced his Division Series starters, preferring to wait until the Orioles actually made it, but Jason Hammel figures to take the mound for Game 1.
The ride continues.
Having fun yet?