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Another great Major League Baseball season went right down to the wire. Division leaders, Wild Card teams and batting leaders weren't determined until the final pitch of regular season baseball (stay tuned for our 2012 MLB recap).
Now it's time to play for all the marbles, with a new twist. 2012 playoffs feature an extra Wild Card team from both leagues (NL/AL now has 2 WC teams). The two Wild Card teams face off today in a one game sudden death type game to see who advances to play division winners.
Tremendous matchup. Atlanta Braves(94-68) trot Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57) to the hill. Atlanta has won Medlen's last 23 starts. Wow! He'll need to be at his best when taking on the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals (88-74) and Cy Young candidate Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86).
Everyone remembers Cardinals clutch hits from last season's playoffs. They neared elimination time and time again. They came thru with clutch hit after clutch hit time and time again. Atlanta players aren't strangers to playoff baseball either led by future Hall of Fame 3B Chipper Jones.
Prediction: Medlen's hot. Don't be surprised to watch him dominate today. Then again, don't count on it. The Cardinals have proven their clutch abilities too many times for me to count them out. World Series MVP David Freese comes to life in playoff action. Perhaps there's no better clutch hitter in Cardinals playoff history than NL MVP candiate Yadier Molina.
Final score: Cardinals 5 Braves 3.
Two teams in opposite directions?
Buck Showalter's guided baseball's surprise team of the year. Baltimore Orioles (93-69) nearly won the AL East. Baltimore's timely offense capitalizes on opponents mistakes. Hitters were red hot until losing final two against pitching rich Tampa Bay. O's offense will need to catch fire from the opening pitch against one of baseball's most potent offenses.
Texas Rangers (93-69) took over first place in AL West with a 3-1 record on April 9. They maintained a two game lead after game 159 and flew off to Oakland for the final three games of the season. Oakland blew them out including an embarrassing 12-5 defeat to lose the division on game 162. Needless to say... Texas is backing into playoff action losers in 7 of final 9.
Baltimore's John Saunders (3-3, 3.63) is the wrong choice for a starting pitcher in a do or die game. I believe it to be the worst choice I can remember, ever! Saunders (former LA Angel) career numbers vs Texas stink. There's no way around it. Rangers hitters combined for .350 BA, .675 SLG and .410 OBA. Trouble brewing before the first pitch is thrown.
Texas marches Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90) to the hill. Yu was 10-2 in Arlington. Good luck Baltimore.
Prediction: O's bullpen better be ready to go early. Buck, Saunders is the wrong guy today. Texas has stumbled lately in all aspects. Saunders is the perfect pitcher to snap a cold spell against.
Final score: Rangers 12 Orioles 2