ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington loaded up his lineup with right-handed hitters for Friday's American League Wild Card game against left-hander Joe Saunders and the Orioles.The lineup included Geovany Soto at catcher, Mike Napoli at designated hitter, Michael Young at first base and Craig Gentry in center field. Josh Hamilton, who was in left field, was the only left-handed hitter in the Rangers' lineup. David Murphy and Mitch Moreland were on the bench. Murphy had been playing against left-handers for most of the second half but finished the regular season with five hits in his last 30 at-bats.
"He's not swinging the bat like he was," Washington said. "The main thing is getting those young legs in -- Gentry running balls down in center field -- and putting as many right-handed hitters as possible in there against Saunders."During the regular season, Saunders held left-handed hitters to a .199 batting average, while right-handers hit .307 off him.
Murphy is 0-for-4 in his career off Saunders, while Gentry has never faced him. Neither has Napoli, who played with Saunders while they were with the Angels. Soto is 4-for-6 with a home run.
Rangers still believe Hamilton will carry them
ARLINGTON -- Despite Josh Hamilton's recent struggles, the Rangers are confident that he will play a big part in their postseason success again this year.Hamilton did not homer in his last nine regular-season games, had two hits in 13 at-bats when the Rangers were swept by the A's in their last series, and dropped a routine fly ball that allowed the A's to take a 7-5 lead in the regular-season finale on Wednesday. But Hamilton's 43 home runs and 128 RBIs this season, both ranking second in the Majors, -- along with the role he played in each of the last two trips the Rangers have made to the World Series -- leave his manager and teammates unconcerned. "We're certainly looking tonight to jump on his back and take a ride," manager Ron Washington said. "There's no reason to think that Hamilton isn't going to show up for us now. ... He can take a ballgame over, and you never know what that day is going to be. I'm a very optimistic guy and I believe that today is the day we can jump on Hamilton's back." Hamilton hit .357 with six homers and 12 RBIs this season against the Rangers' Friday opponent, the Orioles. Four of those home runs and eight RBIs came in one game, a 10-8 win on May 8. "We obviously depend on Josh a lot," Michael Young said. "As far as the end of the regular season, it's not on Josh. If it was on any of us, it wouldn't really matter right now anyway."
Rangers deal with unique Wild Card format
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are the host team for a first in American League playoff history. Texas and Baltimore are the first two teams to meet in the new AL Wild Card Game. Both teams, after winning 93 games during the regular season, enter the postseason facing a one-game, win-or-else playoff."I really don't know how it feels because I haven't tried to put too much emphasis on it other than the fact that let's come out here and prepare and try to just got out here and play our game," manager Ron Washington said. "I know the implications if things don't go the way we would like them to go. "I feel pretty good about my club. I walked through the clubhouse. I didn't see anything different than what they've been doing all year. I think we know what's at stake." General manager Jon Daniels said Friday felt like the playoffs only with a little bit different feel to it. "It's great for the fans," Daniels said. "It's great theater. As an industry, we're getting everything we wanted out of it."
Harrison available out of bullpen for Wild Card game
ARLINGTON -- Matt Harrison, who would be the Rangers' Game 1 starter should they advance to the American League Division Series, was in the bullpen for Friday's Wild Card game against the Orioles.
Harrison is one of four left-handers available, along with Robbie Ross, Michael Kirkman and Derek Holland."I might use him for an inning, it might be multiple innings or it might be a hitter," manager Ron Washington said. The Rangers have six right-handers in the bullpen. Mike Adams is not one of them. Adams is still working through his physical issues, and it does not look like he will be available in the ALDS if the Rangers advance. He has not pitched since Sept. 27 and has not thrown off a mound since then. The Rangers also decided to put side-arming right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama on the active roster over hard-throwing righties Tanner Scheppers and Mark Lowe.
Tateyama is one of six right-handed relievers, along with Koji Uehara, Alexi Ogando, Roy Oswalt, Scott Feldman and closer Joe Nathan. Right-handers hit .225 off Tateyama during the regular season."Tateyama gives us a different look," Washington said. "He's tough on right-handers."
Because teams can change their rosters before the ALDS, the Rangers did not have to include starters Ryan Dempster and Martin Perez on the active list Friday. Instead, Washington opted for more reliever options in case he gets in a "chess match" with Orioles manager Buck Showalter. Washington would prefer that starter Yu Darvish goes out and dominates."I'm not smart enough to play chess, because I don't know how to play chess," Washington said.
Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando turned 29 on Friday. Jurickson Profar is on the active roster for Friday night and, at age 19 years, 228 days old, he would be the eighth-youngest player to appear in postseason. Mike Olt, who is dealing with inflammation in his right heel, was not active for Friday's game. Daniels said that Olt will not be 100 percent again until Spring Training but could be an option for the playoffs if the Rangers advance.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.