For the second time in a week the Orioles will turn to Joe Saunders with their season on the line.
Saunders, who started the Wild Card playoff game against the Rangers last Friday, will take the mound tonight against the Yankees with the Orioles facing elimination down 2-1. Buck Showalter opted to go with Saunders over Chris Tillman, who went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts during the regular season.
Saunders had a far less impressive 9-13 record and 4.07 ERA during the regular season and made just seven starts for the Orioles after coming over in a trade with the Diamondbacks for little in return on August 26.
As a left-hander facing a lineup full of right-handed power hitters the matchup versus Texas couldn’t have been any worse for Saunders on paper, yet he tossed 5.2 innings of one-run ball to erase some really ugly career numbers against the Rangers. And now after beating the AL’s highest-scoring offense Saunders will go up against the league’s No. 2 offense, although the Yankees don’t have as much scary right-handed power.
And if Saunders comes through again tonight the Orioles will turn to Jason Hammel in Game 5.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.