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.
Jon Morosi reports that the Blue Jays and starter Marco Estrada are nearing an agreement on a contract extension. The deal is expected to be for one guaranteed year, Morosi adds.
Estrada, 34, was set to become a free agent after the season. He earned $26 million on a two-year contract signed with the Jays in November 2015. While the right-hander has a subpar 4.84 ERA on the season, he has a solid 170/67 K/BB ratio in 176 2/3 innings and has looked much better since the end of July. Between July 31 and his most recent start on Saturday, Estrada owns a 3.75 ERA.
J.A. Happ is the only other starter technically under contract with the Jays next season. Marcus Stroman will be eligible for his second year of arbitration and the Jays will certainly agree to give him a raise on his $3.4 million salary for the 2017 season. The Jays will likely be active this offseason in adding rotation help and they’re starting early by locking up Estrada.
Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. robbed Orioles first baseman Chris Davis of his 25th home run on Tuesday evening, leaping at the fence in center field to make the catch and keep the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Davis swung at the first pitch he saw from Drew Pomeranz, a slider that crossed the middle of the plate.
This game has potential playoff implications, as the first-place Red Sox hold a three-game lead over the Yankees in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Orioles are still in the AL Wild Card race, trailing the Twins by 5.5 games for the second Wild Card slot.