Orioles pick Joe Saunders as Wild Card playoff game starter

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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.

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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.

Cody Bellinger named NLCS MVP

Cody Bellinger
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Following a dominant 5-1 win to clinch the National League Championship Series on Saturday night, the Dodgers named outfielder Cody Bellinger their MVP of the series.

Bellinger, 23, made noise when it mattered. Entering Saturday’s game, he carried a meager .190/.227/.238 batting line with just four hits and two RBI, but his hits in Games 4 and 7 became the difference-makers the Dodgers needed to keep pace with the Brewers and clinch the NL pennant. In Game 4, it was Bellinger’s 13th-inning base hit off of Junior Guerra that put the Dodgers over the top for the walk-off 2-1 win. The outfielder returned to put the finishing touches on the series with a go-ahead home run — his first of the postseason — in the second inning of Game 7.

Bellinger wrapped his second season in the Dodgers’ organization in 2018, slashing .260/.343/.470 with 25 home runs, an .814 OPS, and 3.6 fWAR across 632 PA and all 162 games. He’s the youngest Dodgers player to receive the award to date.