In the long history of postseason baseball through 2011, only two series had featured a winner-take-all contest with one of the positional starters still a teenager. Interestingly enough, each of the previous two had connections to Friday's Wild Card games.
On Oct. 17, 1996, the Braves hosted the Cardinals and beat St. Louis, 15-0, thanks in part to the efforts of left fielder Andruw Jones, who was 19 years and 177 days old for that contest and had a two-hit day, including a two-run home run. The Braves have not won a postseason winner-take-all game since, while the Cardinals now are 5-1 in winner-take-all games since then.
Jones is still around, of course, and if he makes the Yankees' postseason roster for the 2012 American League Division Series he would be competing against Orioles rookie Manny Machado. Machado, who is just a few months past his 20th birthday, on Friday became the second-youngest starting third baseman in a winner-take-all postseason game. Freddie Lindstrom, playing for the Giants in the 1924 World Series, had not yet turned 19 when he doubled once in five at-bats in New York's Game 7 loss to the Senators.
American League Wild Card
The Orioles defeated the Rangers, 5-1, for their first postseason victory since Game 5 of the 1997 AL Championship Series, and Baltimore moved on to play the Yankees in the ALDS. The Orioles have played in two previous Division Series, winning in 1996 and '97.
Machado (20 years and 91 days old) went 1-for-3 with an RBI single. He was the youngest player in Browns/Orioles history to have a hit in a postseason game, with Paul Blair (22 years and 249 days old in Game 3 of the 1966 World Series) being the previous youngest. Machado was also the 24th-youngest player in history with a postseason hit, and the eighth youngest with a postseason RBI.
Joe Saunders picked up the victory for the Orioles, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings. Saunders was the first Orioles starter to collect a postseason victory since Scott Kamieniecki in 1997, the first O's lefty starter to win in the postseason since David Wells in Game 2 of the '96 ALCS, and the first Baltimore lefty starter to pick up a postseason win and not allow more than one run since Scott McGregor in Game 5 of the '83 World Series.
Saunders and three Orioles relievers (Darren O'Day, Brian Matusz and Jim Johnson) held Texas to no extra-base hits. During the Rangers' run of three consecutive playoff appearances since 2010, they have played 34 postseason games and have been held without an extra-base hit in only three of them. The other two: Game 4 of the '10 World Series and Game 2 of the '11 World Series. During the regular season, the Baltimore bullpen had the fourth-lowest opponents' slugging percentage in the AL.
The Orioles stole two bases Friday for only the fourth time in their 84-game postseason history. They also swiped two bags in Game 2 of the 1979 ALCS, Game 4 of the '79 LCS and Game 1 of the '97 ALDS.
The Rangers were stymied in their quest to win ta third straight pennant. Clubs with three in a row in the World Series era: Cubs (1906-1908), Tigers ('07-09), Giants ('11-13), Giants ('21-24), Yankees ('21-23), Yankees ('26-28), Athletics ('29-31), Yankees ('36-39), Yankees ('41-43), Cardinals ('42-44), Yankees ('49-53), Yankees ('55-58), Yankees ('60-64), Orioles ('69-71), Athletics ('72-74), Yankees ('76-78), Athletics ('88-90) and Yankees ('98-2001).
Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome (42 years and 39 days) went 1-for-3 with a walk. Thome was the 12th-oldest player to reach safely twice in a postseason game. Julio Franco and Pete Rose are responsible for the 11 occurrences by an older player.
The Rangers' Jurickson Profar collected a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning, making him -- at 19 years and 228 days old -- the 14th-youngest player in postseason history to collect a hit. Four players -- Lindstrom, Willie Crawford, Phil Cavarretta and Jones -- occupy the top 13 spots. Profar is the second-youngest player in postseason history to collect a hit as a pinch-hitter. Crawford was 19 years and 29 days old when he singled against Mudcat Grant in the fifth inning of the first game of the 1965 World Series.
National League Wild Card
The Cardinals defeated the Braves, 6-3, to move on to play the Nationals in the National League Division Series. St. Louis has played in nine previous Division Series (1996, 2000, '01, '02, '04, '05, '06, '09, '11), winning seven.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese drove in a run on a sacrifice fly, giving him 22 RBIs in 19 career postseason games. Those 22 are the second most for any player in his first 19 playoff contests, trailing only Lou Gehrig, who had 25 RBIs.
Chipper Jones went 1-for-5 in his final postseason contest. He ended his career with 93 postseason games played (ninth all-time), 58 runs (fifth), 97 hits (tied for fifth), 154 total bases (sixth), 18 doubles (tied for fifth), 47 RBIs (tied for seventh), 72 walks (tied for first) and 66 singles (tied for sixth).
In winner-take-all postseason games, the Braves fell to 4-6, and they have now lost four in a row (2002 NLDS, '03 NLDS, '04 NLDS, '12 NL Wild Card game). In winner-take-all postseason games, the Cardinals improved to 13-5, and they have won five in a row ('04 NL Championship Series, '06 NLCS, '11 NLDS, '11 World Series, '12 NL Wild Card game).
The Braves out-hit the Cardinals, 12-6, with the 12 hits tied for the fourth most for a losing team in a postseason winner-take-all game. In Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS, the Astros had 14 hits, the Yankees had 13 in Game 7 of the '60 World Series, and the Athletics also had 13 when they lost Game 5 of the 2000 ALDS. In Game 5 of the 1997 ALDS, the Yankees lost despite collecting 12 hits.
The Cardinals' six hits tied for the fifth fewest in a postseason winner-take-all victory. The Athletics had four hits in Game 5 of the 1972 ALCS, and the '31 Cardinals (World Series Game 7), '55 Dodgers (World Series Game 7) and 2002 Angels (World Series Game 7) had five hits apiece in their victories.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.