AL Wild Card Game Preview: Can the Rangers snap out of it?

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The Matchup: Baltimore Orioles (93-69) at Texas Rangers (93-69)

The Time: Friday, 8:37 PM Eastern

The Starting Pitchers:  Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90 ERA)

The Breakdown:  Watching the Rangers melt down these past couple of weeks — especially in game 162 vs. the A’s on Wednesday — one is tempted to say that they have zero momentum — maybe negative momentum — heading into the playoffs and are sitting ducks.

Of course, if one were to say that, one would be ignoring the fact that (a) there is no correlation between how a team finishes and how they perform in the playoffs; and (b) momentum, as the old saying goes, is your next day’s starting pitcher.  And the Rangers have the way better next day’s starting pitcher.

Yu Darvish hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, but after making some mid-season adjustments he went 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 67/15 K/BB ratio in 57 innings over his final eight starts. The Orioles have not faced him at all this year and his is not the most conventional stuff in the world. I really think he’s going to present some problems for the men in orange.

Saunders, meanwhile, is no one’s definition of a shutdown ace. While he pitched well since joining the Orioles in August — a 3.63 ERA and 23/8 K/BB ratio in 45 innings — he is a lefty, the Rangers are righty heavy and they have beat him up like he owed them money the times they’ve faced him.  The Orioles bullpen has been the team’s strength this year, but they’re gonna need to be ready early in this one, methinks.

The Prediction: The Orioles are a great story and, if you don’t have a rooting interest in these AL playoffs, it’s hard not to root for them.  But a one-and-done game against a tough pitcher on the road in the first playoff series most of these guys have ever seen? Eh, not liking their chances.  Rangers 6, Orioles 3.

Mets pitchers strike out 26 Braves batters in 14 innings

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New York Mets pitchers struck out 26 Braves batters last night. That ties a major league record for strikeouts in a game. Four other teams have performed the feat. The Mets joined the the then-Anaheim Angels, however, as the only two teams to strike out 26 batters and lose. Those Angels fell to the Brewers 1-0 in 17 innings in 2004. The Mets fell to the Braves last night, 2-1.

Jacob deGrom led the charge with 13 Ks in seven innings of work, with his only blemish being an RBI single surrendered to Freddie Freeman in the sixth inning. deGrom atoned for that himself, however, hitting a home run off of Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz in the bottom of the sixth to tie things up at one. That’s how things would remain when both starters left the game and it moved on to extra innings.

The first arm out of the pen for the Mets was Seth Lugo, who struck out four batters in two frames. Then came Edwin Díaz, who fanned two, followed by four relievers who each punched out one batter. The Mets final reliever of the night, Jeurys Familia, worked the fourteenth inning and recorded three outs, all via strikeout.

Unfortunately, he also gave up two hits and walked two batters. One of the hits was a ground rule double off the bat of Adeiny Hechavarría. Hechavarría, of course, was designated for assignment by the Mets earlier this month, one day before he was to earn a $1 million bonus for days on the active roster. Take that, old boss. He was then singled in by another recent Braves pickup, Billy Hamilton to make it 2-1, which would prove to be the final score.

In all, 26 strikeouts and a loss. I’m guessing the Mets would’ve taken fewer Ks and a win.