Saunders stepping up for Orioles (O’s lead 3-1)

ARLINGTON, Texas - Manager Buck Showalter is being rewarded for his faith in Joe Saunders.

Saunders had held the Rangers to one run in five innings, and the Orioles have taken a 2-1 lead in the sixth on Adam Jones’ sacrifice fly.

J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis opened with singles, and Jones lifted a fly ball to right field to break the scoreless tie.

Yu Darvish, who had retired 15 of 17 batters heading into the sixth, needed the attention of the Rangers’ head athletic trainer and manager Ron Washington after Jones’ sac fly. He took a few warmup tosses and stayed in the game.

Back? Neck? We don’t know, but he retired the next two batters to keep the margin at one run.

Saunders kept the Orioles in this game, and he’s getting a big lift from his defense, which has turned three double plays to tie the club record for a playoff game. They also turned three on Oct. 6, 1979 in Game 4 of the American League Championship series against the Angels.

Steve Johnson was warming in the Orioles’ bullpen three batters into the game, but Saunders didn’t make an early exit. We’ve seen a few relievers stand up and begin to stretch, and Darren O’Day is beginning to warm as we move to the bottom of the sixth.

Saunders had thrown 72 pitches, 43 for strikes. It looks like Showalter will stick with him a little while longer. Maybe he comes out after facing Josh Hamilton, with Adrian Beltre on deck.

Update: Saunders retired Hamilton and Beltre before O’Day replaced him. He allowed one run and six hits in 5 2/3 innings, with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 77 pitches, 46 for strikes.

Saunders has held the Rangers to two runs over 12 2/3 innings in his last two starts against them, going back to 2010.

Still think Showalter made the wrong choice?

Showalter can start mixing and matching with his bullpen. It appears that O’Day will return for the bottom of the seventh.

Update II: The Orioles added a big insurance run in the seventh on Ryan Flaherty’s one-out single, Manny Machado’s sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch and Nate McLouth’s RBI single off left-hander Derek Holland that scored pinch-runner Robert Andino.

Orioles 3, Rangers 1.

O’Day has retired all four batters he’s faced.

Six more outs.

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