The new, two wild card format was expected to bring incredibly exciting games to the table and it delivered yesterday with a pair of excellent games. Heading into yesterday, the Cardinals and Braves were squaring off in Atlanta while the Orioles and Rangers were going in Texas. A great pitching matchup in Atlanta, with Kyle Lohse (16-3, 3.03) going for the Cardinals against strangely impressive Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57). The Orioles-Rangers game didn’t have such a strong pitching matchup, but both held their own in this one with Joe Saunders (9-13, 4.07) going against Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90).
The pitching matchup between the O’s and Rangers turned out to be pretty good, particularly for the first several innings. Joe Saunders would allow a first inning run, but otherwise was very solid, leaving after 5.2 innings and allowing just 1 run and striking out 4. Darvish also allowed a first inning run, but settled down tremendously before running into more trouble as he began to tire in the sixth. He would allow individual runs in the sixth and seventh, before manager Ron Washington pulled him after 6.2 innings– allowing 3 runs (2 earned) and striking out 7. RBI singles by Manny Machado and Nate McLouth in the ninth off reliever Joe Nathan sealed the deal as the Orioles won 5-1. The next question is if they can handle the Yankees in New York.
The big headline in Atlanta heading into this game was that it was potentially the last game in Chipper Jones’ Hall of Fame career. When the Braves got off to a two-run lead in the second on a two-run homer by David Ross, it looked like it may not. However, although he’d been very strong, the Cards got to Kris Medlen in the fourth. Three consecutive run-scoring plays– a double by Allen Craig, a groundout by Yadier Molina, and a sac fly by David Freese. They continued to pour it on, including a home run by Matt Holliday, which would eventually knock Kris Medlen out of the game with 6.2 innings and 5 runs (2 earned). Kyle Lohse was similarly good, allowing 5.2 innings and 2 earned runs, earning the win as the Cardinals bullpen locked them down. On to the Nationals!