For the Baltimore Orioles in the inaugural Wild-Card Game, the plan was simple: Don't get behind early, and win a battle of the bullpens in the late innings. After all, the Orioles sported one of the American League's top bullpens this season, and went 74-0 in games they led after seven innings.
So far, so good. While there were legitimate questions about left-hander Joe Saunders' ability to survive for long against the Texas Rangers' righty-heavy lineup, after three innings the score was 1-1, with Saunders inducing a double-play grounder from Josh Hamilton in the first inning and striking out two Rangers in the second. Hamilton's grounder was enough to drive in the Rangers' first (and so far, only) run, but it was a happy outcome for Saunders and his teammates. Saunders struck out two Rangers in the second inning, and benefited from another twin killing in the third. Elvis Andrus did lace a single down the right-line, but Saunders struck out Hamilton -- the only left-handed hitter in the lineup -- to finish the frame.
Baltimore scored their run in the top of the first, thanks to an error, a stolen base, and an RBI single from J.J. Hardy. Otherwise, though, Rangers starter Yu Darvish has been largely untouchable, giving up just the one hit and striking out four Orioles in three innings.
So a third of the way in, it's 1-1. If the Orioles can just get the lead ...