UPDATE: Sure enough, the Orioles just announced that they’re going with Saunders over Johnson against the Rangers. Showalter indicated that Johnson’s knee injury played a factor in the decision.
Yu Darvish will start the Wild Card playoff game for the Rangers, but the Orioles remain undecided on who they’ll have on the mound. Or at least manager Buck Showalter hasn’t made his choice public yet.
It will either be left-hander Joe Saunders, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks on August 26, or right-hander Steve Johnson, a 25-year-old rookie who made just four regular season starts.
Based on experience and track record Saunders would be the obvious pick and he’s pitched pretty well since joining the Orioles with a 3.63 ERA and 23/8 K/BB ratio in 45 innings. On the other hand the Rangers are a very right-handed heavy lineup aside from Josh Hamilton and led the league in OPS versus left-handed pitching. Not surprisingly Saunders has pretty brutal career numbers versus Texas.
Johnson was excellent in 38 innings split between the rotation and bullpen, posting a 2.11 ERA and 46/18 K/BB ratio, but he’s been dealing with some knee problems and … well, trusting an unheralded rookie with four career starts in the team’s first playoff game in 15 years would certainly be a gutsy call by Showalter.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo is considering pushing Zack Greinke‘s next start to this weekend in order to line him up to start the National League Wild Card game on normal rest, Nick Piecoro reports. The D-Backs open up their final series of the season, a three-game set, on Friday against the Royals in Kansas City. Greinke is currently on track to start Wednesday against the Giants and the team has an off day on Thursday.
Robbie Ray has been the Diamondbacks’ best pitcher by several measures, including ERA (2.95) and K/9 (12.3), but Greinke has been quite good himself (3.18) and has nine postseason starts under his belt in his career. He’s acclimated to postseason pressure. The D-Backs also signed Greinke to a $206.5 million contract two years ago, which is likely a factor.
The D-Backs are still waiting to find out which opponent will fly to Arizona for the Wild Card game on October 4. Currently, the Rockies hold a two-game lead over the Brewers and lead the Cardinals by 2.5 games.
Earlier, Craig wrote about how Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is back in manager Dave Roberts’ doghouse once again. Puig didn’t slide into second base when he was caught stealing to end Saturday’s game, which irked Roberts.
Puig didn’t earn himself any brownie points on Monday as he was late to a team workout and was benched as a result, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Roberts said, “That was a decision he made, not me.” Roberts added that he was disappointed in Puig, though he did note that the former All-Star’s behavior has been improved for most of the season.
Puig, 26, has had a solid season, batting .259/.339/.474 with 26 home runs, 70 RBI, 66 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 554 plate appearances. While he hasn’t provided value on the same level as Justin Turner or Corey Seager, he’s been a valuable part of the lineup which makes this drama all the more unfortunate with just a week and a half before the start of the NLDS.