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.

Dustin Pedroia suffers a “significant setback” in his recovery

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Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has suffered “a significant setback” with his left knee, making his availability for spring training questionable. Abraham says that Pedroia is “discussing his options with his family, agents, and the Sox.”

Pedroia underwent “knee joint preservation” surgery last year, which is often used as an alternative to full knee replacement. As it was, he played in only three games in 2018 and appeared in just six games in 2019, accruing just three hits in 34 plate appearances.

In light of the severity of his injury, the severity of his surgery and all of the time he’s missed over the past few years, it was already something of a long shot for Pedroia play again as it was. Indeed, he himself was not even sure if he’d play again when asked at one point last season. But this sounds positively dire.