It was a bit of a surprise, although considering how well Joe Saunders pitched in his last win-or-go-home outing, maybe it shouldn't have been.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter announced after Wednesday's game that the veteran lefty would get the ball to start Thursday against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.
The choice was between Saunders, 31, and 24-year-old right-hander Chris Tillman, and Showalter made his choice based on experience and what Saunders did in his last start, allowing just one run in 5 2/3 innings Friday to give the Orioles a victory in the one-game wild-card playoff in Texas.
"We feel good about both of them," Showalter said. "Joe obviously is coming off a real good start in a pressure situation, a game that we had to win, and he'll find himself back in that spot again. Joe is a guy that gives you a chance to win. And he'll compete. And he knows we feel good with him out there."
Saunders is 3-1 with a 5.82 ERA in six starts against the Yankees. Only one has come in New York – at old Yankee Stadium in 2006 while he was with the Los Angeles Angels. He allowed two earned runs in six innings for that win. He has five postseason games on his resume (1-1, 4.94 ERA), including Friday's victory.
Tillman has never pitched in a playoff game. He is 2-3 with an 8.16 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees in his career. He is 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA versus New York this season in two starts, both in the Bronx.
Showalter didn't speak to it, but it's also likely he'd prefer to have a left-hander pitch in Yankee Stadium, which has a short right-field porch. Both homers hit Wednesday were by lefty Raul Ibanez to right field.
Right-hander Phil Hughes is scheduled to start Game 4 for the Yankees.
O's right-hander Jason Hammel will oppose Yankees lefty CC Sabathia on Friday if a Game 5 is necessary.