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.

ALCS Game 4 postponed

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As expected, a weather system that is supposed to pour rain on New York this evening has caused the league to postpone Game 4 of the ALCS.

The game will now be played tomorrow, with Game 5 moving to Friday, which was supposed to be a travel day. There will be no travel day now, with Games 6 and 7, if necessary, taking place in Houston on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

The postponement helps the Yankees some in the short term in that it gives their bullpen some rest and could allow them to go from a scheduled bullpen game, which is what they were going to use tonight, to giving Masahiro Tanaka the Game 4 start tomorrow. In the longer run, though, it works to the Astros’ advantage in that it allows them to skip their fourth starter (whoever that would be) or toss one of their big three on short rest and go with Zach Greinke and Justin Verlander over the next two games. Moreover, if the Yankees do manage to push this series to six or seven games — which they’ll have to now in order to win it — there will be four straight days worth of games, meaning no rest for that pen over the final four games.

Oh, and since the Nats swept the Cardinals, that means there’s no baseball tonight. Enjoy catching up on whatever it is you have on your DVR.