The Baltimore Orioles are thriving with a young roster, but were thrilled to add some veteran experience to their rotation over the weekend.
Baltimore has won the first two games of this four-game series, including a 6-0 victory Tuesday. Chris Tillman held the White Sox (71-57) to one hit over seven innings and Nick Markakis had a bases-clearing double against Chicago ace Chris Sale, who lasted a season-low four innings.
“Tillman shut down one of the game’s best offenses,” said Adam Jones, who hit his team-leading 25th homer in the seventh. “Those guys are hitting. He shut that lineup down.”
Baltimore (71-57), which has won four straight and 16 of 22, is tied with Oakland for the wild-card lead and is 3 1/2 games behind the East-leading Yankees.
While Baltimore continues to make a push for its first playoff appearance since 1997, the Orioles hope they upgraded their rotation with the arrival of Saunders, who returns to the AL after beginning his career with the Los Angeles Angels.
Saunders, acquired in a trade with Arizona on Sunday, brings postseason experience, with four career playoffs starts, and has been strong late in seasons over his career, going 15-8 in September.
“We just like his experience,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told the Orioles’ official website. “I think he complements our starting rotation, which has three rookies.”
Despite the lack of experience, Baltimore’s staff has settled down recently, giving up nine runs during the four-game streak.
Saunders was 6-10 with a 4.22 ERA in 21 starts with Arizona this year, losing four of his last five outings.
The left-hander, who said he grew up an Orioles fan while living in Virginia, is coming off one of the worst starts of his career. He was tagged for nine runs and 12 hits over 3 2-3 innings of 12-3 loss to Miami on Aug. 20.
Saunders is 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA in eight career starts against the White Sox, last facing them in 2010. Kevin Youkilis is 5 for 19 with two homers and two doubles off him.
Youkilis and the White Sox, who maintained a two-game lead over Detroit in the Central, have lost five straight on the road. They entered this series after averaging 6.0 runs during a perfect six-game homestand, but have been held to 2.2 runs in the road skid.
“After a good homestand, lose the first one and then have it handed to you,” Sale said. “It’s not what you’re looking for.”
Dylan Axelrod (1-2, 5.63) will start for the White Sox on Wednesday after being recalled from Triple-A Charlotte.
“I’m looking forward to another opportunity,” Axelrod said. “I know we’re in the thick of it here in the race. I (want to) try to contribute.”
This will be the 11th appearance and seventh start this season for the right-hander, who is 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA as a starter. Axelrod’s last start was at Boston on July 16, when he allowed one run and struck out a career high-tying eight in 6 2-3 innings before leaving without a decision in a 5-1 loss.