O's game blog: Orioles host Rangers in Game 1 of American League Division Series

In their first playoff game since the 2016 season and first at home since 2014, the Orioles host the Rangers this afternoon in Game 1 of the best-of-five American League Division Series. 

The Orioles have lost their past five playoff games counting four in the 2014 AL Championship Series to the Royals and they lost the one-game AL Wild Card Game at the Blue Jays in 2016.

Baltimore (101-61, .623) won the AL East this season for the first time since 2014. The Orioles ended the year two games ahead of the Rays.

Texas (90-72, .556) lost four of its final six regular season games to end the year tied with Houston atop the AL West. But they lost the tiebreaker and Houston advanced to the postseason as the AL West champs and second seed while Texas moved on as the No. 5 AL seed.

Then the Rangers, after the disappointing end to the regular season, won at The Trop against the Rays by 4-0 Tuesday and 7-1 Wednesday to advance past the Wild Card round to now play the top-seeded Orioles. For the Rangers, they snapped a six-game postseason losing streak and improved to 5-8 all-time in playoff series.

These clubs split six games in the regular season with the Orioles winning two of three in early April in Texas and losing two of three at home in late May.

Both teams gained big in wins from 2022 to 2023. Texas went from 68 wins to 90 and the Orioles from 83 to 101.

Texas has had a prolific offense this season, leading the AL in batting average (.263), on-base percentage (.337), slugging (.452) and team OPS (.790). They also led the league in walks and runs per game at 5.44. The Orioles were fourth in runs per game at 4.98.

The O's have the better team ERA at 3.89 (fifth in the AL) to 4.28 for Texas (10th). In rotation ERA, Texas is fifth (3.96) and Baltimore seventh (4.14). While in bullpen ERA, the Orioles rank third (3.52) and Texas is 11th (4.77).

While Texas led the AL in home OPS this year at .844, the Rangers ranked seventh in road team OPS at .737.

O's right-hander Kyle Bradish (12-7, 2.83 ERA) gets the Game 1 start for the Orioles. He sure earned it finishing third in the AL in ERA and fourth in the majors in ERA. He was also second in the AL in batting average against (.215) and opponent OPS (.605), was third in groundball rate (49.4) and fourth in the league in WHIP at 1.043.

Bradish ended the regular season throwing 16 combined scoreless innings his last three starts while allowing just five hits. His OPS allowed in those three games was .287. It might have been more innings, but he was held to a two-innng outing last Sunday versus the Red Sox. 

Bradish is the first qualified O's pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA since Mike Mussina posted a 2.54 ERA in 1992. Bradish also owns a 2.23 ERA in 13 starts at home this year, which is the best single-season mark in Oriole Park history among hurlers with at least 70 innings pitched at home.

He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of his past 10 starts, going 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA. He has allowed two or less in 16 of his past 19 starts since June 14, going 10-5 with a 2.18 ERA. In that span, he allowed a .186 batting average and .541 OPS.

Bradish has 1.08 ERA in two games this season versus Texas. He pitched just 1 2/3 in April at Globe Life Field when he took a grounder off his foot and it led to an injured list stay. In 8 1/3 innings against Texas on the season, he has given up five hits and one run.

Lefty Andrew Heaney (10-6, 4.15 ERA) is the Game 1 starter for Texas, although the Rangers didn't finally announce this until nearly 8 p.m. last night. While Heaney threw a combined nine scoreless innings his last four appearances - three out of the bullpen - he had a 7.45 ERA this year against the Orioles. And he is 2-3 with a 7.63 ERA and with a 1.070 OPS against in seven career games against the Orioles.

Heaney may have gotten the start to match up better with some of the O's lefty hitters, as one Texas writer suggested last night. But this season the O's have an OPS of .764 against lefty pitching and .733 versus right-handers.

Today's game is the first of four today in the majors to begin the four Division Series, which will also find the Twins at the Astros in the AL with the Phillies at the Braves and the Diamondbacks at the Dodgers in the National League.

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