Baseball playoffs: Win and you're in on Wild Card Friday

The Braves, Cardinals, Orioles and Rangers all have a one-game shot to continue playing meaningful baseball games this weekend.

By , Staff

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    Baltimore Orioles' Robert Andino, from left, Manny Machado and Mark Reynolds high-five teammates after a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Baltimore, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.
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Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig got his wish this season: Several MLB teams in both leagues, beyond the division leaders, had a chance to reach the postseason. That means, as the quest to play in the World Series continues, the number of teams still in contention bodes well for keeping enthusiasm, as well as the TV ratings, high.

Now Texas, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Baltimore will compete in a pair of "one-and-done" wild-card games Friday. The winner of the Baltimore-Texas matchup will meet the Yankees in one American League divisional series, while the Atlanta-St. Louis victor gets Washington in a National League divisional series. Those two divisional series will start on Sunday.

Chicago, Anaheim, Tampa Bay in the American League and Los Angeles and Milwaukee of the National League all were in the playoff mix until the last week of the 2012 regular season.

Recommended: Baseball 2012: The game's best off-beat, under-the-radar statistics and trivia

As for Friday's games, there are some interesting pitching matchups. In the AL contest, Japanese import Yu Darvish, who went 16-9 in his first major league campaign, will start for the Rangers. He will be opposed by Joe Saunders for the Orioles, who compiled a 9-13 mark this season.

Texas had led the AL West division for much of the 2012 season, but lost seven of nine games down the stretch, including the last game of the year to Oakland. The A's clinched the division title with the win and will face the Tigers in the other AL divisional series, starting Saturday.

The Orioles chased the Yankees all season and earned a postseason berth with a phenomenal 20-11 record in September. By virtue of the O's hard work and shrewd moves by general manager Dan Duquette, postseason baseball is back in Baltimore.

In Atlanta, the Braves will host the defending World Series champion Cardinals (sans Albert Pujols) in the NL Wild Card game. Kris Medlen, who didn't make his first start for Atlanta this season until July 31, gets the ball for the Braves. Kyle Lohse, who went 16-3 on the year, will start for St. Louis.

The other NL divisional series will feature the Giants and Reds. Their series gets underway Saturday in San Francisco.

The two wild-card games Friday will be televised on cable's TBS, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern time. TBS will also carry the divisional series games this weekend.

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