This isn’t the way the Orioles wanted it – forced to go through Arlington for a one-game wild card playoff to get to the American League Division Series – but I like the O’s chances in Texas on Friday night.
Maybe it's delirium from a lack of sleep -- my flight leaves for Texas in about five hours -- but I've gotta think that Orioles manager Buck Showalter loves this kind of winner-take-all matchup.
All signs point to Showalter turning to rookie right-hander Steve Johnson to start Friday’s game. Reading the tea leaves, Showalter pretty much said it because of the importance he placed on Johnson’s 'pen session before Wednesday’s game.
And even though the Orioles would love to not be in this situation – forced to win on the road – this is a team that’s thrived away from Camden Yards. Their 46 wins were the most in the American League.
Only one of those wins came in Arlington – the Orioles dropped two of three in their only trip to Texas this season — but I like Showalter in a a situation like this, where he can, as he says, “Let it rip.”
Expect Showalter to use every matchup to his advantage. He’s used his bullpen to perfection all season long and don’t expect otherwise Friday, even if is means a short leash for Johnson and leaning on the bullpen most of the way. He can reset his postseason roster again before the ALDS, so Showalter can load up his roster with relievers.
And after facing the quality of pitching here in Tampa – the Rays ended the season leading the majors with a 3.19 ERA and .228 opponent batting average – Rangers starter Yu Darvish doesn’t seem all that intimidating.
It might not look great to the Orioles now, but there could definitely be worse scenarios for O’s fans right now.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times