The Baltimore Orioles gave the MLB Playoffs its first big upset of 2012 when they took down the Texas Rangers, which should serve as a warning shot to the New York Yankees.
The Rangers may have melted down towards the end of the regular season when they lost six of their last 16 games, but that shouldn't overlook the fact that the Orioles beat one heck of talented lineup. This is largely the same Texas team that went to the World Series just a year ago and boasted the best batting lineup in the MLB this regular season.
To the Yankees' credit, they finished just behind Texas in the batting department and did the exact opposite of the Rangers to finish out the regular season. The Bronx Bombers went 16-6 through their last 22 games heading into the playoffs.
The Orioles might not own the better record or the American League East title like their divisional foes in this matchup, but being the underdog against the Yankees can sometimes prove to be an advantage—just ask the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
These two clubs are more than familiar with each other, which means New York knows better than most that Baltimore has seen the postseason for a decade and a half. Considering the Yanks have won a few World Series during that time, the team may overlook Buck Showalter's crew.
However, as the Rangers learned, overlooking a team with no hype or expectations to live up to can prove costly.
"Our approach is it’s sudden life, not sudden death, and there’s something good, real good, that can happen," Showalter told Tyler Kepner of The New York Times before the Rangers game.
The Yankees may have the pedigree and experience with a lineup featuring CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and the rest, but they're playing a team riding an upward swing with nothing to lose. Unlike New York's faithful, Baltimore fans are just happy to be in the playoffs and can't be disappointed even if the run does end at the hands of the Yankees.
The Orioles have split or won their last three meetings with their foe and just beat a offensively loaded Texas team with the likes of Joe Saunders and Brian Matusz on the mound. Baltimore has to like its chances at least in Game 1 of this series.
Considering the knowledge these two teams have of one another, this AL Wild Card should prove to be a close battle. However, if the Orioles can earn the first two victories, don't be surprised to see them advance. New York needs to have all its big-name players show up in this series in order to avoid suffering the same fate as Texas.