ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers get a chance at new life tonight, facing the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild-card game. The winner moves on to the ALDS against the New York Yankees on Sunday and the loser’s season is finished.
So let’s look at three reasons the Rangers win tonight and three reasons they lose.
THREE TO WIN
Yu Darvish: The club’s top pitcher must pitch like it. He’s been very solid his last eight starts – all quality starts – and he’s very difficult on clubs that have never seen him (10-3, 3.12 ERA vs. teams the first time he sees them). Darvish has pitched in big games before, though none as big as what is essentially a Game 7.
Early runs: After what’s happened to this team the past few weeks, they need the bats to get going early. They’re going against Joe Saunders, who has not pitched well in Arlington in his career (0-6, 9.38 ERA in six starts). If they can get Darvish the lead and feel better about themselves, it could set things up for a win.
Defense: They’ve had too many mistakes of late, and in a game that decides it all, a solid defensive outing is needed. This is a good defensive team; they just haven’t played like it down the stretch. They must do that tonight.
THREE TO LOSE
Situational hitting: It’s been a problem for parts of this season and certainly in the past few weeks. Too often the club hasn’t been able to move runners over or get a runner home from third base with less than two outs. Nothing zaps energy like not executing a scoring opportunity. If the Rangers struggle with that tonight, it could hurt.
Chris Davis: The former Ranger has been on a tear of late, bashing home runs against a variety of teams. He’s likely to be fired up to play in Arlington in this kind of atmosphere. If you make a mistake to Davis these days, he makes you pay.
Bullpen: The game could come down to arms. The Orioles are one of the top clubs in the league when they have the lead after seven innings. The Rangers aren’t too shabby, either. Texas’ 'pen is banged up with Mike Adams out. Koji Uehara could be a big key tonight to help bridge the gap to closer Joe Nathan, who should be well-rested.