The most intriguing matchups in today's winner-take-all wild-card games:
1. The Rangers' lineup against Buck Showalter's bullpen
Joe Saunders is getting the start for Baltimore, but the roster rules for the one-game playoff suit a manager who is really good at running a bullpen. Showalter will have a full array of relief options at his disposal in this game, and presumably, he won't be shy in calling on them when necessary. For example: It would be a shock if the left-handed-hitting Josh Hamilton faces a right-hander today, unless it's closer Jim Johnson, because Showalter can repeatedly summon lefties from his bullpen. And generally speaking, the Rangers are heavy in right-handed hitters, with Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli and Michael Young, meaning that Showalter can call on righties to face strings of right-handed hitters. (Although as you can see by the numbers below, Beltre has had much more success against right-handers than lefties this year.)
Baltimore must turn in its roster by 10 a.m. today, as Roch Kubatko writes, but you can bet the Orioles will be heavy in relief options.
Some of the noteworthy lefty-right splits to keep in mind today:
Hamilton OPS vs. right-handers: .965; vs. left-handers: .853
Beltre OPS vs. right-handers: .984; vs. left-handers: .737
Kinsler OPS vs. right-handers: .671; vs. left-handers: .988
Darren O'Day vs. opposing right-handed hitters: .584 OPS; LH hitters: .664
Pedro Strop vs. opposing RH hitters: .556 OPS; LH hitters: .674
The Rangers brought Darvish on board with the idea of bringing him along slowly as a complementary part of their rotation, and they worked to avoid putting him in the spotlight early in the season. But now all the pressure is on Darvish, in his first year with the team, because a lot of the pitching staff has been compromised by injury or subpar performances.
Darvish has been better late in the season, because his command has been better. From ESPN Stats & Information:
6: Losses for Yu Darvish when he does not throw at least 60 percent first-pitch strikes.
6: Consecutive starts Yu Darvish has thrown at least 60 percent first-pitch strikes.
Medlen is a confident pitcher, writes David O'Brien. From his story:
- [W]hen a reporter prefaced a question about one of his eye-popping statistics recently by saying "beyond the streak, which is obviously going to end at some point...," a little voice from Medlen's vicinity goes, "nuh uh."
It went unnoticed, so Medlen came back with: "Will it?"
The question was more of an answer, really, and a nod to the power of his capacity for positive thinking.
The former 10th round pick of the Braves is 5-foot-10 -- maybe with his hair spiked up -- and his fastball tops out at about 92, but he is a sports psychologist's dream. For those who preach picturing the positive, Medlen is a poster boy. What images can he conjure up at this point that don't look good?