Tonight’s live blog: Saunders vs. Darvish in wild card match-up

Tonight’s live blog: We’ll be keeping this blog going throughout tonight’s game and are looking for your input. Hope you post a lot of comments and/or questions here all night starting now.

Let’s start with this question: How are your nerves holding up tonight, O’s fans? What are your feelings about tonight’s game and what do the Orioles need to do to win it?

Again, feel free to post your impressions of the game with comments and questions through the night. I’ll add some of my own as the game goes on.

Here are some stats and notes on tonight’s starting pitchers:

Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63 ERA) makes his eighth start with the Orioles. Since giving up seven runs in his first O’s start vs. Chicago on Aug. 29, he has an ERA of 2.75 over six starts.

The Orioles are 4-3 when Saunders starts. He has recorded five quality starts, including four in a row. In three road starts, he is 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA and .203 average against.

By now, you have probably memorized his poor career numbers against Texas. He is 3-7 with an ERA of 6.48 in 11 career starts. In six career starts in Texas, he is 0-6 with an ERA of 9.38.

You can’t take starts away from that, but in 2009, Saunders had an ERA of 16.88 against the Rangers over three outings. Beyond that, he is 3-4 with a 4.15 ERA vs. the Rangers.

How some Rangers hit vs. Saunders:
Ian Kinsler: 10-for-24/4/8
Michael Young: 10-for-28/1/3
Adrian Beltre: 7-for-25/0/5
Nelson Cruz: 6-for-20/2/3
Josh Hamilton: 4-for-10/1/6
Elvis Andrus: 2-for-5/0/0
David Murphy: 0-for-4/0/0

Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90 ERA) starts for Texas after making 29 regular season starts where, over 191 1/3 innings, he gave up 156 hits, 14 homers, 89 walks and had 221 strikeouts.

After pitching to an ERA of 5.49 in nine starts in July and August, he went 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA in five September starts.

His ERA is a little higher (4.06 to 3.79) when he pitches on four days rest as opposed to five or more. He is pitching on four days rest today after giving up three runs and nine hits Sunday against the Angels. He threw 117 pitches in that game. But he had seven starts this year when he threw more than that.

The Orioles have never faced Darvish before.

The Rangers are 19-10 when he starts, including a mark of 5-1 in his last six and 5-2 in his seven starts vs. AL East opponents.

Lefty batters hit .221 against him and right-handed batters hit .207.

The first time through the order, he allows an average of .189, followed by .247, .204 and .318 the fourth time through an opposing batting order.

Stolen base note: The Orioles have stolen two bases in the first two innings tonight. When Darvish has been on the mound this year, the Rangers have thrown out just 14.8 percent of base-stealers (4-of-27). Couple that with the fact the Rangers catchers rank 12th in the league, getting only 20.3 percent this year and we may see more of this tonight.

Making big pitches: Saunders has made some big pitches in this game. He just pitched out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the fourth. The Rangers are 0-for-3 so far tonight with runners in scoring position after batting just .217 with RISP in the last 11 games of the regular season.

Adam Jones note: The O’s center fielder had just one RBI over his last nine regular season games but just had a big one there on his sac fly that gave the O’s a 2-1 lead on Darvish and the Rangers in the 6th. His fly ball followed singles by J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis that put runners on first and third with no outs.

Say it is so, Joe: Saunders pitched a very strong game for the Orioles tonight. As I pointed out above, take away his 2009 starts vs. Texas and his stats were respectable against this team. Over his last two starts vs. the Rangers - tonight and July 23, 2010 - he has given up just two runs over 12 2/3 frames.

Who pitches in the eighth?: Darren O’Day retired all four batters he faced tonight as the O’s take a 3-1 lead to the eighth. Will O’Day start the eighth? Will it be Pedro Strop? Will it be Tommy Hunter, who was pitched so well late in the year? Someone else?

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