The Baltimore Orioles came into Friday night's wild-card game against the Texas Rangers as heavy underdogs.
Then again, the Orioles were underdogs all season long. The surprising Orioles defeated the Rangers, 5-1, advancing to the divisional round and shocking the crowd in Arlington.
Baltimore, which went 69-93 last season, has been one of baseball's Cinderella stories in 2012, going 93-69 in the regular season.
The Rangers, who had made it to the World Series two years in a row before Friday, left 15 men on base in the loss and their dangerous offense was curiously stymied by left-hander Joe Saunders.
The rest was left up to Baltimore's sterling bullpen, which blanked Texas for the remainder of the game. Here's a look at Twitter reaction and grades of the spectacular showing by the Orioles.
After carelessly dropping a fly ball in Wednesday's game that allowed the Oakland Athletics to clinch the AL West, Josh Hamilton had a miserable night at the plate against the Orioles in this must-win playoff.
Bleacher Report's own Zachary D. Rymer may have summed it up best:
Strange to hear boos for Josh Hamilton. Worse, painful to watch him look so helpless at the plate.— Zachary D. Rymer (@zachrymer) October 6, 2012
With the umpires' controversial call in the Cardinals-Braves game still looming, Not Bill Walton added a little much-needed comedy...at least for anyone not a Rangers fan:
After choke jobs by Braves & the LF ump, we can now watch the Orioles-Rangers game without a collapse. No way Texas chokes in Oct, right?— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) October 6, 2012
In reference to Rangers starter Yu Darvish being on the mound, Buster Olney of ESPN joined Not Bill Walton in lightening the mood:
Orioles have just filed a protest about the interpreter being on the field. Unfair advantage for Rangers in interpreting nods. #justkidding— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 6, 2012
Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com noted the pure magic that seems to exude from this Orioles team when they were up, 2-1:
it's only a one-run game and it feels over— Matt Snyder (@MattSnyder27) October 6, 2012
And when Baltimore had built a 3-1 lead, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com threw this little nugget out there:
O's winning pct. when leading after 6 (.942) is good, but not as crazy good as sounds. Braves better, 10 playoff teams combined .916.— DKnobler (@DKnobler) October 6, 2012
Grades for Key Orioles Players
Nate McClouth: B+
Nate McClouth only went 1-for-4 on the night, but he made it count with an RBI in the top of the seventh innning and a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth, helping the Orioles build a 5-1 lead.
That was after he stole second base and then scored on J.J. Hardy's single in the top of the first.
J.J. Hardy: B+
When Baltimore needed J.J. Hardy the most, he went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run for his squad.
Joe Saunders: A
As part of a waiver trade in late August, the Orioles acquired Saunders and he responded by posting a 3.63 ERA in seven starts for Baltimore.
He was everything the Orioles could have asked for and more versus Texas, going 5.2 innings and allowing just one run against a dangerous Rangers lineup.
Grades for Key Rangers Players
Josh Hamilton: F
Hamilton, a five-time All-Star and the 2010 MVP, was counted on by the Rangers to bring it when it mattered most.
But, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, stranding three runners on base in Arlington. Going 0-for-4 isn't the end of the world when it comes to baseball, but, nonetheless, he failed to produce when the game was within reach throughout.
Yu Darvish: B
You certainly can't blame Darvish for the third run that he was responsible for, and he allowed just two earned runs in 6.2 innings. But he still got the loss and it's hard to give him a better grade than a B when Joe Saunders upstaged him.
Michael Young: C-
Michael Young hasn't made a lot of fans this season. He hit .277 with eight home runs in 611 at-bats this season.
He did have a good game at the plate (2-for-4), but his fielding error in the first led to the Orioles scoring the opening run of the game. In a tight game throughout, that was certainly significant.
The Orioles will go on to face the New York Yankees in the divisional round on Sunday. The first two games of the series will be played in Baltimore. The Orioles have a 9-9 record against the Yankees this season.