Joe Saunders escapes jam to preserve 1-1 tie vs. Rangers through four innings

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Most didn’t give Joe Saunders much of a chance against the Rangers in this game, especially after seeing how Ron Washington stacked his lineup with right-handed batters, but he has allowed one run through four innings to preserve a 1-1 tie.

It hasn’t been easy, though. Saunders walked Ian Kinsler to begin the game. Elvis Andrus then followed with a single to move Kinsler to third. It looked like he was on the ropes three batters into the game, but Saunders got Josh Hamilton to ground into a double-play to kill the rally. A run scored on the play, but the Orioles gladly took it.

The Rangers just threatened again in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Nelson Cruz and Michael Young had consecutive singles with one out. However, Saunders was able to get Mike Napoli to strike out swinging before getting Geovany Soto to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Saunders has allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out five. He has flipped the order over two times with minimal damage. Can’t ask for much more than that given the circumstances.

UPDATE: Make that five innings of one-run ball. You know, just like everybody expected.

Report: Astros extend Justin Verlander for two years, $66 million

Justin Verlander
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The Astros are in agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year, $66 million extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was among those to report on Friday. With no money deferred, the $33 million he’ll receive over the next two years will set a record AAV for major-league pitchers; something MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says matters to Verlander, who “cares how his deals affect markets (and fellow players).”

While it’s far from the five-year, $100 million extension teammate Alex Bregman signed with the club on Friday, the deal will give the Astros a bigger window to consider their long-term plans for the ace before he hits free agency again. Prior to Saturday’s agreement, Verlander’s original contract — the hefty seven-year, $180 million arrangement he reached with the Tigers in 2013 — was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

It’s difficult to overestimate the value Verlander has provided to the Astros since they acquired him from the Tigers back in 2017. He was named the 2017 ALCS MVP following seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 performance and helped the Astros clinch their first franchise World Series title. In 2018, he earned his seventh career All-Star distinction and received consideration for both AL Cy Young and MVP awards after pitching to a 16-9 record in 34 starts with a 2.52 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 SO/9 (the product of a career-high 290 strikeouts), and 6.7 fWAR over 214 innings.

The deal has not been confirmed by the team.