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.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.