Baseball playoffs begin Friday

Oct. 4, 2012 at 9:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The first 10-team playoff in baseball history opens Friday with two winner-take-all wild-card games featuring both participants from last year's World Series.

Major League Baseball owners agreed to expand the playoff this year, adding a wild-card team in each league and altering the post-season format for the first time since 1995. The experience, however, will be only a one-game affair for two teams.

The playoffs begin at 5 p.m. EDT Friday with St. Louis visiting Atlanta in the National League wild-card contest. The American League game will send Baltimore to Texas at 8:30 p.m.

St. Louis won last year's World Series in seven games over Texas after the Cardinals barely reached the playoffs as a wild-card team when Atlanta was eliminated on the final day of the regular season.

Kyle Lohse, who put together a 16-3 record this year with a 2.86 earned run average, will start for the Cardinals. He did not face the Braves during the regular season.

Atlanta will counter with late-season sensation Kris Medlen, who went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA after joining the starting rotation at the end of July.

The Rangers, who let a four-game division lead get away over the final six contests of the regular season, will send rookie Yu Darvish to the mound against the Orioles.

Darvish (16-9) was a superstar in Japan before signing with the Rangers this season, and he finished the campaign strong by winning his last four decisions.

Baltimore will go with Joe Saunders in what will be the Orioles' first playoff game in 15 years.

Saunders was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA after coming to Baltimore from Arizona in a trade. In 11 career starts against the Rangers, Saunders has a 3-7 record and a 6.48 ERA. He has lost all six of his previous starts in the Rangers' home park.

Baltimore went 69-93 in 2011 but challenged for the 2012 AL East title until the final day of the regular season.

The Baltimore-Texas winner advances to the best-of-five Division Series against the AL East champion New York Yankees, which begins Sunday in the wild-card winner's stadium. The other AL division winners -- Oakland and Detroit -- begin their Division Series at 6 p.m. EDT Saturday.

The Washington Nationals take on the NL wild-card winner beginning Sunday. No Washington baseball team has made the playoffs since 1933. NL Central champion Cincinnati plays a Division Series against West winner San Francisco starting Saturday.

The winners of the Division Series move to the League Championship Series, both best-of-seven, with the AL Series beginning Oct. 13 and the NL version to open Oct. 14.

The 108th World Series is scheduled to begin in the NL champion home stadium Oct. 24. If necessary, Game 7 is to be played Nov. 1.

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