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.

Yadier Molina ties record for the most games caught with one team

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Yadier Molina has two World Series rings, multiple Gold Gloves, Platinum Gloves, All-Star appearances and a Silver Slugger award. He now has an all-time record too.

The record: the most games caught with one team. Last night he caught his 1756th career game with the Cardinals, with ties him with Gabby Hartnett of the Cubs, who last caught in 1941 and set the record in 1940, his last season with Chicago. Molina will break the record next time he dons the tools of ignorance, likely tonight against the Phillies.

Given how badly catchers get beaten up — and Molina has taken a beating at times in his career — and given how well mastery of the position leads to a catcher earning journeyman status, as it were, it’s quite a thing to catch that many games for one team.

Given that Molina is under contract with the Cardinals for two more seasons and has stated his desire to retire a Cardinal many times, he’s likely to put that record so far out of reach that it’ll likely take at least another 78 years to break it, if indeed it is ever broken.