The Baltimore Orioles' improbable ride continued on Friday when they hammered the two-times defending American League (AL) champions Texas 5-1 in Major League Baseball's first one-game AL wildcard showdown.
Left-hander Joe Saunders, who was 0-6 with a 9.38 earned run average in six previous starts at Rangers Ballpark, held Texas to one run on six hits and a walk through 5 2/3 innings with four strikeouts.
"As a baseball player and an athlete, you always want to prove people wrong," Saunders told reporters. "We strive on that, and I strive on that, too.
"No one really gave me a chance, and I wanted to go out there and prove people wrong. It was a little dicey in the first inning, walking (Ian) Kinsler to lead off, and then just got a big double play.
"I just kept telling myself, 'Hey, minimise damage. Keep us in the game.' I got some big double plays against a really great team. Hat's off to our defense, and we got some really clutch hits."
For Texas, sluggers Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre were a combined 0-for-8 in the middle of the order and Japanese starter Yu Darvish went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out seven.
It was a crushing end to the 2012 campaign for the Rangers, who had a four-game division lead with six games to play but lost the AL West crown after dropping nine of their last 13 regular-season games.
"We just didn't get it done," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It came down to being able to execute against good pitching, and it wasn't the base hits or anything like that, it was just the fundamentals.
"I thought Darvish did a great job for us. He actually kept us in the ballgame. They only put one run on the board.
"Even if they don't get any more, the sacrifice fly they got and the first-and-third situation, that won the ballgame. We didn't score another run. He did his job."
Both teams scored in the first inning before the Orioles went ahead in the sixth.
A pair of singles from J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis put runners at first and third, then Adam Jones followed with a sacrifice fly to deep right that brought home Hardy with the tie-breaking run.
"Me and my team mates and the Rangers fans, I don't think we all thought that it would end this early," said Darvish. "I don't even know what I'm supposed to do tomorrow."
Back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997, Baltimore now head home to host the AL East champion New York Yankees in the opening game of the best-of-five divisional series on Sunday. (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles.; Editing by Ian Ransom and Peter Rutherford)