BALTIMORE – In two years, the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers went from triple-digit losses to the postseason.
That's about the extent of their similarities.
Baltimore rebuilt through high draft picks and a loaded farm system. Texas was aggressive in free agency. The Orioles have the lowest payroll of any postseason team, while the Rangers have the highest. Even in the dugout, it's a battle of youth vs. experience. Baltimore's Brandon Hyde is managing in the postseason for the first time, while Texas' Bruce Bochy is trying to win his fourth World Series.
The Orioles and Rangers begin their AL Division Series on Saturday in Baltimore.
Hyde previously was a bench coach for the Chicago Cubs. He was with them for their World Series title in 2016, when the Cubs beat Bochy and the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series.
“He’s so good," Hyde said. “Especially at that time without with three-batter minimum, the way he could match up out of the bullpen. The players love playing for him. You never heard a bad thing, ever, about Boch from a player.”
Hyde went through some lean years after taking over the Orioles, including a 110-loss season in 2021. Now catcher Adley Rutschman (the No. 1 pick in the 2019 amateur draft), infielder Gunnar Henderson (a second-round pick in 2019) and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (a first-round pick in 2018) are in the majors making big contributions.
Texas moved quickly to upgrade its roster after losing 102 games two years ago. The Rangers signed infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien that offseason, along with right-hander Jon Gray. Then after last season, they added more pitching help in Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney. After losing deGrom and Eovaldi to injuries, Texas traded for right-hander Max Scherzer and left-hander Jordan Montgomery at this year's deadline.
Eovaldi is back now and pitched well in the AL Wild Card Series against Tampa Bay, but Gray is injured and Scherzer's status is unclear because of shoulder problems.
“Our goal last year was to be here,” Semien said, going to to praise general manager Chris Young. “Obviously we needed a lot of pieces. CY and ownership went out and got the pieces we needed. Our lineup has matured and experience has helped us get better. Corey and I have understood where we’re at in Texas and what our routine is. We’re just like clockwork now as a lineup.”
The Texas relievers ranked 24th in the major leagues this season with a 4.77 ERA. The Rangers mostly avoided using them in their two-game sweep over the Rays because Eovaldi and Montgomery combined to throw 13 2/3 innings.
Baltimore's bullpen has been a strength the past couple years, but the Orioles are without All-Star closer Félix Bautista, who went down with an elbow injury.
The Orioles went 3-3 against the Rangers in the regular season, and the teams haven't faced each other since May.
“It’s just a young, aggressive team, very talented ballclub,” Bochy said. “Starts with the great starting pitching they have. You don’t win a hundred games without having really good pitching, which they have. They have a balanced lineup. They have speed. They’re aggressive on the bases, well-managed club.”
BACK HOME, EVENTUALLY
The Rangers finished the regular season with seven straight road games against the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners, then had their two playoff games in Florida against the Rays. They'll finally play at home again in Game 3 of this series.
“We’re ready for whoever we’re playing,” Semien said. “I think the road we had to take to get here — of course, we would have wanted to win the division, be home, be with our families. But a lot of families travel here.”
Game 3 will be the first playoff game for the Rangers at Globe Life Field, where they began playing in 2020. The ballpark did host some of the 2020 postseason for other teams as a neutral site because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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