"If Yu Darvish goes out and gives us a good outing and we can execute right, this thing can turn around in our favor," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The playoffs are a whole different animal."
Saunders has previous postseason experience, when he was with the Angels. But he is also 3-7 with a 6.48 ERA in 11 career starts against the Rangers. He is 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in six starts in Arlington. Darvish did not pitch against the Orioles this season.
Both teams finished the season 93-69. The Rangers have the home field advantage because they won five of seven against the Orioles during the regular season, including two out of three at the Ballpark in August.
The Rangers won three of four against the Orioles in Baltimore back in May. That includes a 10-3 victory on May 8, in which Josh Hamilton tied a Major League record with four home runs.
Washington said Thursday that recent history means nothing now with Friday's one-game playoff.
"They're not the same team we played early in the season, as they are right now," Washington said. "Just like we're not the same team they played early in the season as we are right now. We'll just have to wait and see if we can adjust to the pitcher that they're throwing against us and what the game presents and how we react to it."
The Rangers did not know until Wednesday who their first-round opponent would be. But Washington said he had no preference.
"I never care who we're going to play, because you've got to play somebody," Washington said. "When you try to pick your poison, it may turn out to really be poison. Whoever it is, we're going to go play baseball and see what happens."
The sub-plot to the one-game playoff will be all the familiar faces in the Orioles dugout. That starts with manager Buck Showalter, who has done an outstanding job in leading the Orioles to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
The Orioles were 69-93 last year. Four of Showalter's coaches also either played or worked in the Rangers organization: Rick Adair (pitching), Wayne Kirby (first base), DeMarlo Hale (third base) and John Russell (dugout).
The Orioles roster is also dotted with key players picked up from the Rangers in the past couple of years: pitchers Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop, Zach Phillips and Darren O'Day, catcher Taylor Teagarden, first baseman Chris Davis, outfielder Endy Chavez and infielder Omar Quintanilla.
"There's not one guy there we were looking to get rid of," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "I still keep in contact with a couple of those guys. I'm genuinely happy for them."
The Rangers have two ex-Orioles on their roster in pitcher Koji Uehara and infielder Brandon Snyder.
If the Rangers win on Friday, they will advance to the American League Division Series against the Yankees. The first two games will be at the Ballpark in Arlington on Sunday and Monday. The final three games of the best-of-five will be at Yankee Stadium Wednesday-Friday.