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.

Pirates suspend Keone Kela two games for contract violation

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On Monday, the Pirates announced the club suspended reliever Keone Kela two games for an unspecified contract violation. Kela will begin serving the suspension tonight.

Kela, 26, went on the injured list in early May with a right shoulder injury. He was on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis for the last week and a half. Prior to the injury, Kela posted a 4.63 ERA with an 11/4 K/BB ratio in 11 2/3 innings.

After sitting out Monday and Tuesday, Kela can rejoin the Pirates on Wednesday in the middle of their four-game home series against the Cardinals.