Quite often a baseball series builds over a week-long rollercoaster ride to a crackling Game 7 climax. Tonight, before the playoffs have even started, the Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers are skipping all the preliminaries.

They're going directly to Game 7.

After 162 games, their playoff fates rest on one American League wild card game Friday night at Rangers Ballpark. The winner gets to play the New York Yankees in a five-game AL Division Series starting Sunday.

It didn't have to be that way for either team but, of the two, the Rangers have to be in a much worse place emotionally.

"Over the last few weeks we had our chances to get it done," said Texas outfielder David Murphy. "We didn't get it done, but we still have life. Just keep fighting. This one hurts, but in reality we're going into Game 7. If we can win one more game, none of this mattered."

Murphy was talking about Texas' lousy final 10 days when they lost seven of nine games to blow a five-game lead and lose the AL West title to Oakland on the season's final day. He could also have been talking about the stunning turnaround in last year's World Series that has gnawed at their guts for the past 11 months. This Rangers team was one strike away, twice, in the late innings of Game 6 at St. Louis and let it slip away, losing in extra innings. Back then all they had to do was win Game 7 and we all know how that worked out.

Rangers manager Ron Washington gave his team a mental health day Thursday after the events of Wednesday, when they raced out to a 5-1 lead in Oakland then got buried, 12-5.