Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles will get another chance to overtake the New York Yankees.

The surprising O's have already beaten some big odds, getting past the two-time defending A.L. champion Texas Rangers and their Japanese ace, Yu Darvish, in the win-or-go-home wild-card playoff.

Joe Saunders pitched effectively into the sixth inning at a place where he had never won, Adam Jones delivered the tiebreaking sacrifice fly and the Orioles, in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, eliminated the Rangers 5-1 Friday night in Arlington Texas.

The Orioles advance to play the East champion Yankees, the A.L.'s top seed -- the teams split 18 games this season. The best-of-five division series starts Sunday at Camden Yards.

The upstart Orioles spent the whole second half chasing New York, never passing them and falling just short in a neck-and-neck race for the division title.

Just that quickly, the season is over the Rangers, who were in first place for a majors-high 178 days this season. Texas loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth before David Murphy flew out to end it.

The Rangers lost the A.L. West crown on the final day of the regular season, after being swept in three games at Oakland for a stretch of nine losses their last 13 games.

Their worst slump of the season came at the wrong time for Ron Washington's team, which a week ago had a four-game division lead with six games to play.


Advertisement

When the Rangers committed more than $107 million last winter to acquire Darvish, they did so with the anticipation he'd be on the mound for many big games.

They never would have expected him being outdueled in a playoff game by Saunders, a late-season addition by the Orioles who had lost all six of his previous starts with a 9.38 ERA at Rangers Ballpark.

Cardinals 6, Braves 3: Just like last year, Atlanta lost out on a spot in the N.L. division series to St. Louis. Only this time, the Braves were knocked out with the help of what will be remembered as one of the most disputed infield fly calls in baseball history.

Trailing by three runs, the Braves would have had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth inning. Instead they had runners on second and third with two outs, didn't score again and lost in baseball's first, one-and-done, wild-card playoff game.

Just like that, the focus shifted from Chipper Jones' impending retirement and the end of Kris Medlen's winning streak to a call that led to a 19-minute delay caused by enraged fans throwing debris and a protest by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

MLB executive Joe Torre said the protest had been denied. St. Louis advanced to face Washington in the best-of-five division round, beginning Sunday at Busch Stadium.

"Ultimately I think that when we look back on this loss, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror," Jones said. "We put ourselves in that predicament, down 6-2. You know, that call right there is kind of a gray area. I don't know. But I'm not willing to say that that particular call cost us the ballgame. Ultimately, three errors cost us the ballgame, mine probably being the biggest."

Jones leaves with just one World Series title, in 1995.

"Today my heart is broken," he said. "Not for me, my heart is broken for my teammates and my coaching staff, and all these fans that have been so great to us this year.

"Ultimately, I feel I'm the one to blame."

Dodgers: Center fielder Matt Kemp Matt Kemp underwent an hourlong operation that revealed the condition of his left shoulder was worse than expected, raising doubts about whether he will be at full strength for the start of next season.

Kemp is believed to have torn his labrum crashing into a wall in Colorado on Aug. 28. He and the Dodgers were hoping the damage would be relatively minor and require nothing more than a cleanup, but Dr. Neal ElAttrache decided the labrum had to be repaired -- that is, reattached to the socket.

The Dodgers issued a statement stating ElAttrache expects Kemp to be ready for opening day.

Marlins: Owner Jeffrey Loria is getting pressure from his top baseball executives to fire manager Ozzie Guillen because they believe he has brought an unprofessional culture to the team, according to two people who have spoken with the front office.

On Thursday, ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that the "Marlins are aggressively seeking a replacement for Ozzie Guillen."

Guillen told reporters after Wednesday's season finale, which left Miami 69-93 and in last place in the N.L. East for the second consecutive year, that he expected to keep his job.

Indians: Former Philadelphia and Boston manager Terry Francona interviewed to be Cleveland's next manager. Francona's interview came one day after the Indians met with Sandy Alomar Jr. about their managerial opening. Alomar began the season as the club's bench coach but was interim manager after Manny Acta was fired with six games left.

Twins: General manager Terry Ryan had the interim tag on his title removed.

The Los Angeles Times and Palm Beach (Fla.) Post contributed to this report.