The Orioles’ improbable season marches on

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For most of the regular season, the surprising success of the Orioles was downplayed because of a negative run-differential and their penchant for winning one-run and extra-inning games. Going into tonight’s Wild Card game against the Rangers, most prognosticators didn’t give the Orioles much of a chance because they were using left-hander Joe Saunders against a lineup stacked with right-handed hitters in a venue whether he had fared poorly during his career. However, consistent with everything they did during the regular season, the Orioles just keep defying expectations.

The Orioles topped the Rangers 5-1 tonight in Arlington for their first playoff win since Game 5 of the 1997 ALCS. They’ll now advance to take on the Yankees in the ALDS beginning Sunday at Camden Yards. Yes, there will be playoff baseball in Baltimore. And that’s pretty cool.

We have seen an unlikely cast of characters play important roles for the Orioles this season and the same was the case tonight. Joe Saunders, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks in August, tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Nate McLouth, who was signed to a minor league deal in June after being released by the Pirates, had an RBI single in the seventh inning and a sacrifice fly in the ninth. Darren O’Day, who was claimed off waivers from the Rangers last November, tossed two innings of scoreless relief. Manny Machado, a 20-year-old who made his major league debut in August, had an RBI single in the top of the ninth to provide some extra insurance for the bullpen. Just another exercise in “Oriole Magic.”

The Orioles have a pretty tough task ahead of them against the playoff-tested Yankees, who will have CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte waiting for them. As such, they aren’t going to shed that underdog label anytime soon. But you know what? They’ve worn it well so far.

Phillies, Jake Arrieta having a “dialogue”

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No, not like a Socratic dialogue, in which each side, in a mostly cooperative, but intellectually confrontational manner interrogate one another as a means of testing assertions and finding truths, though that would be an AMAZING thing for baseball players and teams to do. Rather, low-level talks about possible interest in Jake Arrieta, baseball free agent.

Arrieta is probably the top free agent still available, now that Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer have signed. Philly has money — it’s a big market — and could use a pitcher, but Jon Heyman, who, much like Plato did for Socrates, reported the dialogue, says they’re not looking to go long term with anyone.

It may make sense for Arrieta to take a so-called “pillow contract” and come back on the market in a year, but if he’s willing to accept a one-year deal, there are a lot of teams other than Philly who may offer one, and you’d have to figure Arrieta would prefer to pitch for a team more likely to contend.

Dialogues are cool, though. You should go have one over lunch.