I almost feel bad for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb, who last night in St. Louis took more of a pounding than the star of the Houston 500 (look it up … just not at work). Kolb was sacked nine times and hit on a dozen occasions in Arizona’s 17-3 loss to the Rams, a result that ended the Cardinals’ perfect season and got yours truly back in the win column (hence the above qualifier “almost”).
Baseball’s playoffs start Friday with a pair of single-elimination games, and even though the Rangers fell apart down the sretch, I’m riding them tonight—and doing so on the run line—for one simple reason: Orioles manager Buck Showalter inexplicably is handing the ball to Joe Saunders. I know Showalter is the quintessential old-school baseball man, someone who relies on gut instinct rather than historical statistics. That said, he’d have to be comatose to not recognize that Saunders can not pitch in Texas. And by can not pitch in Texas, I mean that in his Angels days, Saunders made six starts at Rangers Ballpark and went 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA. In those six games, Saunders gave up 33 earned runs—including a whopping 13 home runs—in 31 2/3 innings, allowing Rangers hitters to rack up a .318 batting average.
Saunders supporters (that would be Showalter) would counter that the southpaw pitched great in September, going 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. That’s terrific and all, but only one of those games was against a potent offense (Yankees), and, more to the point, none were in Texas.
While Showalter is rolling the dice big time with Saunders, Texas is going with Yu Darvish,
which is brilliant for a few of reasons: 1) Darvish went 10-2 with a 3.88 ERA at home this year; 2) The Rangers won 11 of his 14 home starts (outscoring the opposition by an average of more than 2½ runs per game); 3) He has a ton of postseason experience pitching in Japan; and 4) The Orioles didn’t see Darvish this year (which is key because Texas went 10-3 when the right-hander faced an opponent for the first time).
The Rangers have won six of Darvish’s last eight starts (five of those wins by multiple runs),
and they’re 10-2 in their last 12 games against Baltimore, with those 10 wins by scores of 12-3, 5-1, 7-3, 10-3, 14-3, 13-5, 4-2, 13-4, 3-0, 13-1.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Thursday’s Result: Rams (+1½) vs. Cardinals (Win)