Wild Card Game lineups: Orioles vs. Rangers

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Here are the Orioles’ and Rangers’ lineups for the Wild Card playoff game:

   BALTIMORE ORIOLES         TEXAS RANGERS
1. Nate McLouth, LF       1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. J.J. Hardy, SS         2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Chris Davis, RF        3. Josh Hamilton, LF
4. Adam Jones, CF         4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
5. Matt Wieters, C        5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Jim Thome, DH          6. Michael Young, 1B
7. Mark Reynolds, 1B      7. Mike Napoli, DH
8. Ryan Flaherty, 2B      8. Geovany Soto, C
9. Manny Machado, 3B      9. Craig Gentry, CF

SP Joe Saunders, LH       SP Yu Darvish, RH

Buck Showalter is going with what has become his standard lineup versus right-handed pitching following injuries to Nick Markakis and Wilson Betemit. Jim Thome gets the start at designated hitter and will be playing in his 68th career playoff game at age 41. Of the nine players starting for the Orioles tonight only Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, and J.J. Hardy were in the Opening Day lineup at the same position (Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds also played the opener, but at different spots than tonight).

Ron Washington stacked the Rangers’ lineup with right-handed bats against left-hander Joe Saunders. David Murphy played regularly against lefties during the season, but he’s benched tonight in favor of Craig Gentry, which also shifts Josh Hamilton from center field to left field. Lefty-hitting Mitch Moreland is also out of the lineup, with Michael Young taking over for him at first base and Mike Napoli sliding into Young’s usual designated hitter spot. Geovany Soto, who was acquired from the Cubs to be Napoli’s backup, will catch Yu Darvish’s playoff debut.

Feel free to chat during the game in the comments section.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.