Before this season, neither the Orioles nor the Rangers had reached the postseason since 2016. They were two of the best MLB teams in 2023. But for either club to finish the year with a World Series championship, they would need to get past the other.
Baltimore and Texas will face off in the American League Division Series, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Camden Yards. This will be only the second time the two teams have met in the postseason, and the first time in a multi-game series. The O’s defeated the Rangers, 5-1, in the first winner-take-all AL Wild Card Game in Arlington in 2012.
The Orioles haven’t played since Sunday, going 101-61 in the regular season, winning their first AL East title since 2014 and capturing the top seed in the AL. Meanwhile, the Rangers (90-72) fell short of the top spot in the AL West, falling to the No. 5 seed as the second AL Wild Card on the final day of the season.
“The key is these guys have the ability to put tough times, tough losses, streaks, whatever, behind them, and this club has done an unbelievable job of doing that,” Texans coach Bruce Bochy said.
Baltimore hasn’t played a multi-game postseason series since 2014, which was also the last time Camden Yards hosted a playoff contest.
“Everybody’s going to have big butterflies that day, and it’s going to be about being able to control your emotions,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think our guys are made up right now.”
When is the match and how can I watch it?
The premiere is set for 1 PM ET/noon CT on Saturday on FOX or FS1. The Orioles and Rangers are playing closer to the day due to a scheduling conflict, as Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks will perform in concert at 7 PM ET at M&T Bank Stadium, which shares a parking lot with Camden Yards.
All series are available in the United States on MLB.TV with endorsement from a participating pay-TV provider. Games are available live internationally (except in Canada). Full game archives will be available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Rangers: To be announced
Top two starters in Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery are both down after pitching 13 2/3 innings of one-run ball in the sweep over the Rays, leaving limited options for the injured rotation in Game 1 of the ALDS. The most likely options are Dane Dunning and Andrew Heaney, who threw 161 and 162 games respectively in the regular season with Max Scherzer and Jon Gray both on the IL.
Dunning took a big step forward this season, opening the year in the bullpen and moving back into the rotation when Jacob deGrom went down. He posted a 3.70 ERA in 35 games (26 starts) and was the best pitching staff down the stretch thanks to his ability to eat up innings. On the flip side, Heaney opened the season in the rotation, but returned to the bullpen after the trade deadline acquisitions of Scherzer and Montgomery. Heaney posted a 4.15 ERA this season, but made the postseason as recently as last year.
Orioles: Probably RHP Kyle Bradish
Baltimore has yet to reveal its starter for Game 1, but it would be a surprise if Brad wasn’t. The 27-year-old right-hander has emerged as the clear leader of the rotation during the 2023 season, his second in the major leagues. Over 30 starts, Bradish had a 2.83 ERA, becoming the first eligible Orioles player to post a sub-3.00 ERA since Mike Mussina had a 2.54 mark in 1992.
Bradish allowed more than 8 1/3 runs in two games versus the Rangers during the regular season. He exited the April 3 outing at Texas (his first appearance of 2023) after 1 2/3 innings, after having a pad removed from his right foot.
What is the expected starting lineup?
Notice: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, apparently. Bruce Bochy shocked everyone when he switched up his usual lineup against right-handers in both games against the Rays in the Wild Card Series, going with Robbie Grossman (career .692 OPS against RHP) instead of Mitch Garver in the DH spot and in the three-hole. Bochy noted before the game that he likes Grossman’s hitting lately and likes his ability to see more pitches and draw walks, even if it’s against a right-hander.
Bochy likes this lineup, though Grossman goes just 1-for-9 with a walk against Tampa.
Orioles: Here’s how the O’s might line up if they face the right-handed Dunning. (If they instead faced a lefty, the lineup would likely look very different.)
How will the Bulls line up after the start?
Notice: The Rangers should be relatively comfortable after two days off. José Leclerc has been the team’s top reliever as of late after finishing September/October with a 1.98 ERA across 13 2/3 innings. He threw a scoreless inning in both Wild Card games. But the bullpen as a whole has been a weakness for Texans this season, as they finished the regular season 30-for-63 (47.6 percent) in creating chances. Relievers with postseason experience, such as Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith, as well as Josh Spurs and Brock Burke, will certainly be used. Martin Perez will continue to be a tall man.
Orioles: Thanks to five days off, Baltimore’s playing field is brand new. The O’s will likely have several converted starters to help cover the middle innings (if needed), a group that could include Jack Flaherty and one of the three who won’t be needed to start (Kyle Gibson, Dean Kramer or John Means). . The Orioles no longer have All-Star closer Félix Bautista (partial right MCL tear), so they were shut down by the committee, with All-Star right fielder Yenier Cano, converted starter Tyler Wells and three lefties (Danny Coulombe, DL Hall and Cionel Pérez) given the late inning combination.
Notice: The Rangers’ new and improved rotation has been decimated by injuries all season, with deGrom (right elbow), Scherzer (right shoulder) and Gray (right forearm) all on the IL heading into the postseason. It’s possible Gray will return, but he’s still day to day, and Scherzer continues to throw, though any return has yet to be determined. Fortunately, the Texans’ group of All-Stars — Seager, Eovaldi, Garcia, Jung and Heim — all returned from the IL over the past week to try to balance the lack of rotational arms with a strong lineup.
Reliever Jonathan Hernandez was ruled out of the postseason roster with a right lateral strain, an injury that Bochy said was sustained during Game 162, when Hernandez tossed a perfect inning with two strikeouts in the Texans’ 1-0 loss to Seattle. It’s unclear if he’ll be available in the ALDS, but Bochy didn’t sound confident.
Orioles: Bautista is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery later this month and is expected to be sidelined until the start of the 2025 season. It’s a big loss for Baltimore, which made it through the final five weeks of the regular season without getting close to the All-Star game.
The rest of the Orioles roster is healthy. Mountcastle missed two weeks in mid-September with left joint inflammation, but the 26-year-old first baseman returned to play in the final four games of the regular season.
Who’s hot, and who’s not?
Notice: Rookie infielder Carter introduced himself to the wider baseball world with a remarkable Wild Card series, finishing 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run and three walks. To no one’s surprise, 2020 World Series MVP Seager also got off to a hot start in the postseason, going 4-for-8 against the Rays.
Lowe struggled to hit a .165/.305/.248 line over his final 30 regular season games, going just 2-for-10 against the Rays.
Orioles: Over the final 10 games of the regular season, Baltimore’s two standouts were Rutschman (.400/.512/.629, five doubles, one homer, five RBIs) and Santander (.310/.341/.452, three doubles, One homer, 11 RBIs). Bradish ended a 16-inning scoreless streak over his last three starts.
Several of the O’s key hitters finished the regular season in skids: Hays (3 for 27), O’Hearn (0 for 23) and Mullins (2 for 36).
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”