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Orioles pick Joe Saunders as Wild Card playoff game starter

Oct 4, 2012, 4:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

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.


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.

  1. watermelon1 - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    The Rangers BETTER win this series. Clearly they wanted to play the Orioles, and that’s the only explanation for them completely tanking the last 3 games of the season and losing their division.

    • darthicarus - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:32 AM

      So the Rangers wanted to lose so they would have to play an extra game, then lose homefield to play the Yankees for the “first” round of the playoffs? Seems legit. You think they really didn’t want to play Detroit in the first round? (they would’ve played Detroit first if they won, correct?)

      • artthoumad - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:41 AM

        Pretty sure it was a sarcastic comment about the rangers tanking

      • cnbarnes - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:23 PM

        Watch the South Park episode on “Sarcastiball”. Then you might understand…

    • beefytrout - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      I don’t think it’s the only explanation. The Rangers have had no swagger for several weeks now. Whether they’re tired or simply thought the postseason was a given for them, they now find themselves in a very unwanted position.

      Yeah, they play the WC play-in at home. And if they manage to win that, they’ll start the DS at home… against nyy.

      On the flip side, I doubt there are many Rangers fans who ever thought they’d see the day a 93-win season was a disappointment.

    • nolanwiffle - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:53 AM

      ….a nine inning series.

      • b7p19 - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:21 PM

        In fairness it could be anywhere from 8.5 innings to 30+

    • madhatternalice - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      Can a 1 game playoff really be called a “series?”

  2. bmorelikeme - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    I hate that the O’s burned their best 3 starters against the Rays. Now I’m depending on Saunders or Johnson to get my first taste of playoff baseball in Camden Yards.

    • funkygoorilla - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:35 AM

      First, and last……..

      • sophiethegreatdane - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:24 PM


    • psuravens19 - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      They should have used their 3 best starters… they were fighting for the division.

      • bmorelikeme - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:30 PM

        I don’t disagree…just looking back in hindsight

    • atworkident - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      Seriously… how cool would it be to have Steve Johnson beat Yu Darvish. I mean it would have been better in Baltimore but hey… I’ll take it.

    • chuckj1234 - Oct 4, 2012 at 7:24 PM

      With sanders on the mound the O”s might as well mail this one in.He is a medicore pitcher at best.

  3. psuravens19 - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    I’m hoping for Steve Johnson to take the mound…

  4. cnbarnes - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    The Rangers are notorious for doing poorly against no-name, rookie pitchers that they’ve never seen. If Johnson starts, the Rangers might get no-hit.

    (yes, I’m a Rangers fan who is very bitter right now)

  5. sophiethegreatdane - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Saunders. Short leash.

    Since this is a “series” it carries it’s own roster, and I doubt Buck will have many starting pitchers on the roster. He could throw a different pitcher out there every couple of innings to keep the Rangers off balance?

    Heck I don’t know. I can’t even think straight right now. The Rangers were the *last* team I wanted the O’s to face. They’ve been murdering the Orioles pitching since 1996 it seems.

  6. boh930 - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Dylan Bundy

  7. Andy Snakovsky - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    if only Jason Hammel was ready for this game, but reports are he wouldnt be ready til Saturday, if the season lasts that long

  8. dunnd4d4 - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Short leash for both starters. I would open with slow pitch stevie johnson. If he’s locating he will be good if not we will know real fast.

  9. alang3131982 - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    Buck should really just use each for a few innings. I dont know how line-ups and SPs are announced, but if Washington has to post his line-up first and David Murphy is in it, start Saunders. If not, start Johnson and really just play the match-ups when possible. Josh Hamilton should probably not face a righty all game though.

    Maybe start with Matusz, then figure it out from there? It’s cockamamie and would never happen, but it’s not a bad idea…

  10. rockthered1286 - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    You know what Buck’s gonna do…

    “Ladies and gentleman, pitching for the Baltimore Orioles tonight will be…Crush Davis.”

  11. boomerdt - Oct 4, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    Article kinda summed it up well…. Saunders sucks against Texas and Texas clobbers lefties. Start the rookie, it’s worked for many other teams in the post season. Teams haven’t faced him yet and the O’s handle their business 1 game at a time.

    If Johnson lets up more than 3 runs before the 6th… pull em.

  12. billymc75 - Oct 4, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    One word against Saunders… Nap-o-li

  13. dowhatifeellike - Oct 4, 2012 at 5:09 PM




    I think Buck is trying to piss away his shot at Manager of the Year this week.

  14. hardballtalkusername - Oct 4, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    A 9.38 ERA with a 1.8 WHIP at Arlington. I want the O’s to win but that doesn’t bode well

  15. doubleogator - Oct 4, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    Hats off to Baltimore GM Dan Duquette, the same GM that Boston ran out of town a few years ago…

  16. husky2score - Oct 4, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Hopefully Buck has a special plan here. Saunders has had some good starts and some not so good starts with the O’s. He might be thinking that if Saunders pitches well, he has a chance. If not and say, he gives up 3 runs in 4 innings, then we use Johnson out of the pen to stop the bleeding and hope the offense takes away the damage. Buck has been great at setting up a game plan and has made some really nice decisions such as calling up Machado. I’m sure Showalter will bring that kind of mentality into this game and later on.

  17. temporarilyexiled - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Texas ace going against Texas batting practice pitcher.

    Please help me summon the irony gods and have Baltimore finish off the Buffalo Wings.

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