The Texas Rangers waited a year for another chance to get back to the World Series.
This time, the two-time defending American League champs didn't even win a postseason game.
Instead of finally getting a chance to celebrate something this year — after a late-season slide cost them their AL West crown on the final day of the regular season — slugger Josh Hamilton was getting booed in what might have been his last home game in a Rangers uniform.
Even with Yu Darvish on the mound, Texas lost 5-1 in Friday night's win-or-go-home AL wild-card game against Baltimore and Joe Saunders, who had never before won at Rangers Ballpark.
"To be honest with you, I never thought anything like this would happen," manager Ron Washington said. "I don't get pessimistic, I always stay optimistic, and when things like this happen, I am shocked. And right now, I'm shocked."
And getting ready for the Rangers' longest offseason in three years after being in first place for a majors-high 178 games this season.
After being swept in three games at Oakland, and losing nine of their last 13 games in the regular season, the Rangers couldn't avoid the majors' new winner-take-all postseason opener.
"If we play the way we're supposed to play, we're going to beat people," Hamilton said. "We didn't play how we're capable of playing. That's where the shock comes in."
Hamilton was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, both on three pitches. He swung at the first pitch his other at-bats — grounding into a double play in the first that did send home Texas' only run and a comebacker to start the sixth. He struck out with a runner at second base to end the eighth.
While Hamilton dejectedly walked toward the outfield after his last at-bat, second baseman Ian Kinsler stopped and put his arm around him.
The former AL MVP and batting champion is eligible for free agency, and the Rangers might not be willing to pay the big money likely necessary to keep him.
"I hadn't thought about it too much. I'm going to go home, spend some time with the family and figure out what's going on," Hamilton said. "I'd love to stay here. They understand it and know that. ... Even if you send me off with boos, I still love you."
Wiped out by San Francisco in the 2010 World Series, the Rangers twice were within a strike of their first World Series championship last October against St. Louis.
When the Rangers committed more than $107 million last winter to acquire Darvish, they did so with the anticipation he'd be on the mound for many big games.
"Me and my teammates and the Rangers' fans, I don't think we all thought that it would end this early," Darvish said through a translator. "I mean, right now, no. I don't even know what I'm supposed to do tomorrow."
The Rangers certainly never would have expected him being outdueled in a playoff game by Joe Saunders, a late-season addition by the Orioles who had lost all six of his previous starts with a 9.38 ERA at Rangers Ballpark.
Saunders quickly gave up the Orioles' 1-0 lead in the first, but that was the only run he allowed in 5 2-3 innings. The left-hander struck out four and walked one.
Four pitches into the game, they led against Darvish, who struck out seven in 6 2-3 innings.
The O's had consecutive singles to start the sixth before Adam Jones' sacrifice fly made it 2-1.
After backing up the plate when Jones hit the ball in the air, Darvish started stretching his shoulder and rolling his neck. Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux went out to the mound to try to figure out what was wrong when their pitcher still looked uncomfortable.
Darvish's translator, Joe Furukawa, was also on his way out before initially being waved back by umpires. The six umpires then conferred before allowing the translator to come out while Darvish kept stretching and then threw a couple of pitches. Darvish said he had a cramp in the muscle on the top of his shoulder.
Darvish finished the sixth with a strikeout, and started the seventh with another, before Ryan Flaherty's single and a sac bunt by Manny Machado. Derek Holland took over and gave up an RBI single by Nate McLouth for a 3-1 lead.
Even though he was a rookie in the majors, the 26-year-old Darvish was 8-2 with a 1.38 ERA and five complete games in 11 postseason starts for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters from 2006-11.
The Rangers loaded the bases in the ninth off Jim Johnson, who had an Orioles record 51 saves this season, before David Murphy's flyball to start what will be a long offseason.
"I know that we're good enough. I'm going to be watching teams on TV next week and I know we're good enough to be where those guys are," Murphy said. "But we didn't get it done. ... I know what kind of talent we have. I know the quality of guys we have. That's what makes it frustrating."
NOTES: The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by 86-year-old Sister Frances Evans, a longtime Rangers fan who was escorted by Nolan Ryan to a spot a few feet in front of the plate. She wound up and threw to former Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg.