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AL wild card: O’s shock Rangers with solid effort from Joe Saunders, Texas collapse completed

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Score and situation: Keep those Wire references out, people! The surprising Baltimore Orioles prolonged their magical 2012 season for at least another week, advancing to the ALDS with a 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the AL wild card game.

Leading lads: O's lefthander Joe Saunders was matched against eight Rangers righthanders in the wild card start and he did an incredible job, limiting Texas' powerful lineup to just one run in 5 2/3 innings of work.  Saunders was a midseason acquisition from Arizona and he was aided by another midstream pickup as left fielder Nate McLouth went 1 for 4 with a sac fly, a stolen base, two RBI and one run scored.

[Related: Controversial call mars first wild card game]

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(US Presswire)

Head hangers: Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre went a combined 0 for 8 from the Rangers' third and fourth lineup spots. Hamilton is likely to earn the majority of the grief as the free agent to be looked lost at the plate. Both of his strikeouts lasted only three pitches and he left the tying runs at second and third when he struck out to end the eighth inning. Reliever Joe Nathan also had an off night, giving up two insurance runs to Baltimore in the top of the ninth.

Key play: Adam Jones hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth inning, scoring J.J. Hardy from third and giving Baltimore a lead it would not relinquish.

[Photos: MLB wild card Friday]

Interesting stat: Though they seemed in control for much of the game — and were, in fact — the Orioles struck out 12 times and left six runners on base.

What they'll be talking about: The improbable season of the Orioles continues and it'll be extended to the biggest stage possible as they try and take down the division rival New York Yankees. (Think there might be a story or two about Jeffrey Maier in the days ahead?) Meanwhile, the Rangers will be left to ask where it all went wrong. Despite having a five-game lead over Oakland in the AL West with nine to play, the two-time defending AL champions blew it and played only one postseason game. It'll be an interesting offseason with the struggling Josh Hamilton heading to free agency.

What's next: The Baltimore Orioles will head to the best-of-five ALDS for the first time since 1997 and will host the New York Yankees at Camden Yards for the first two contests. Game 1 is scheduled for 6:07 ET on Sunday night.

Are you ready for the postseason?
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