With the Wild Card round now officially behind them, the Texas Rangers can now set their sights on the American League East Division Champion Baltimore Orioles. However, the Rangers first are enjoying two days of much-needed rest. We haven't seen these teams face each other since the end of May, but let's take a look at what happened when they did square off. Additionally, let's ponder what might be different this time around when they square off Saturday, October 7 at 12 PM CT. Yes, that coincides with a certain college football game that will take place in Dallas around the same time. But who cares about that when there's a playoff baseball game afoot, am I right?
Round one was for the birds
The first meeting of the season between Texas and Baltimore came almost as soon as possible. After their season-opening sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Rangers turned around to face the Orioles over the next three days.
This meant the rotation for Texas would consist of Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, and Jacob deGrom to match up against Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells, and Kyle Gibson. In other words, each team would feature the back two of their rotation with their aces facing off in the finale. "The best laid plans of mice and men," though, or something like that. Bradish took a screaming shot off his leg in the second inning of game one, forcing his removal from the mound, and pushing Baltimore's bullpen into early action for the opener. So, Danny Coulombe took over in relief.
He went an inning and a third with the only blemish coming from a hit batsman. Then, Wells came in to do what he was supposed to do the following night. And he did it well, stifling the mighty Texas bats for five innings. The only flaw in his game came by no fault of his own -- an E6 committed in the fifth inning by Jorge Mateo. He retired and disposed of the other 15 Rangers hitters he faced with ease, and the Orioles cruised to a 2-0 win at Globe Life Field.
Game two featured Gibson for the Orioles, who was originally supposed to pitch the finale. Boston had roughed him up on Opening Day, but that wasn't the case this time. While Heaney struggled to get past the third inning, allowing seven runs (all earned) on seven hits and two walks, Gibson spread just two runs over seven innings to win the second in a row for Baltimore.
The Rangers avoided a sweep though in the finale against newly inserted starter Grayson Rodriguez. It was the native Texan's major league debut and he had quite a large number of family and friends on hand. After giving up two runs in the first, he settled in and pitched a solid rest of the game that ended with a no-decision. The Rangers were propelled, in large part, to six strong innings from deGrom who had 11 strikeouts, and a go-ahead 2-run homer from rookie Josh Jung in the sixth. Texas cruised to a 5-2 victory to close out the series. At this point, Baltimore held a 2-1 edge in the season series.