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A doubleheader Saturday at Camden Yards is not an ideal scenario for the H

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ouston Astros.The defending World Series champions are steamrolling their way into the postseason and do not need any injuries or pitching issues to get in the way in their quest to win the title again.Nonetheless Mark Melancon Jersey , Houston and Baltimore will play a single-admission doubleheader after the game Thursday was postponed because of rain. The nightcap will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the opener.Article continues below ...Houston took the opener 2-1 on Friday. The Astros clinched their second straight AL West title on Tuesday. The Astros open a best-of-five Division Series matchup against Cleveland at home on Oct. 5.Houston manager AJ Hinch wants to make sure his players don’t get complacent against the hapless Orioles. “I have stressed to them not to get sloppy,” Hinch said. “You don’t want to play like it’s spring training, then have to go back into playoff mode.”As a result, the series in Baltimore will simply be a tuneup for the postseason. Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.60 ERA) will start the first game Saturday, looking to boost his chances for the 2018 American League Cy Young Award.Verlander has a career-high 280 strikeouts and will likely add to the total against the struggling Orioles. Verlander is 10-5 with a 3.75 ERA in 20 starts against Baltimore. “He’s had some pretty good ones as an Astro,” Hinch said. “When he comes out and sets that kind of tone and gets those swings and misses and the strikeouts, it’s a pretty special day for us.”Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 2.75 ERA) has already set a career high with 272 strikeouts. The left-hander is 5-0 with a 3.54 ERA with 65 strikeouts in his last seven starts.In Keuchel’s last outing against Toronto, he picked up his first win since Sept. 3, (12-11) allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings. He also amassed more than 200 innings in a season for the third time in his career.“It means more to me now than it did the first time,” Keuchel said, alluding to the Astros’ stellar run during the past two years.Keuchel is 3-2 with 2.80 ERA in seven starts against the Orioles. Meanwhile, Baltimore is on course to endure the worst season in franchise history The biggest question facing the Orioles during this final weekend of the season is whether manager Buck Showalter will return to the club in 2019. He was not worried about the uncertainty or expects anyone from the front office to update his status until the final pitch Sunday. “I’ve got a contract through the end of October Deion Sanders Jersey , so nobody needs to or has to do that,” Showalter said. “There’s a lot of people in this world like that. Who am I? I mean, really? Is it that important? No.”For Baltimore, Dylan Bundy will start the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader and Yefry Ramírez will start the nightcap. Bundy (8-16, 5.49 ERA) has struggled in the second half of the season. Ramirez (1-7, 6.07 ERA) is trying to make his case to be part of the rotation in 2019. Nonetheless, both pitchers will play a part in the Orioles’ rebuild. “I think in today’s game a lot depends on how quick the young pitching comes,” Showalter said. “You look at what separates the Houstons. You talk about all the things they do on the field and the good position players, but you’ve got three guys throwing 200 innings, it lets you do a lot of things with your bullpen that other people can’t do.“You try to do it as fast as you can, but you’ve got to do it with your nose down and grind each day and you might be surprised where you stand when those days are behind you.” ATLANTA (AP) — Freddie Freeman spent the previous four seasons playing for an Atlanta team that averaged 90 losses a year.Now that the Braves are back challenging for a division title, the All-Star first baseman knows his club can’t afford any long losing streaks.“It’s been four days, so I thought this was a big win for our team,” Freeman said. “I thought we played a quality baseball game today and hopefully we can carry that into this Philly series.”Freeman hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs Alen Hanson Jersey , Touki Toussaint pitched into the sixth inning and the NL East-leading Braves snapped a four-game skid with a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.It was a critical win for Atlanta, which is 5½ games ahead of the second-place Phillies and opens a four-game home series against them on Thursday. Philadelphia blanked the New York Mets 4-0 on Wednesday night.The Braves have a magic number of six over Philadelphia to clinch their first division title since 2013.St. Louis, which had won three straight, trails Milwaukee by three games for the top NL wild card but leads Colorado by 1½ games for the second spot. The Rockies lost 5-2 at Dodger Stadium.Atlanta closer A.J. Minter, working in a non-save situation in the ninth, walked two to load the bases, but he ended it by striking out Jose Martinez and getting Paul DeJong to pop up.Freeman’s 23rd homer, an opposite-field shot to left-center, put the Braves up 2-0 in the fourth against Jack Flaherty. Freeman went 3 for 3 and is hitting .405 over his past 11 games.“He’s getting the ball in the air, and it’s carrying, and that’s always a good thing,” manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s a welcomed sight if we can get him going.”Toussaint (2-1) allowed five hits, two runs, three walks and struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings. A rookie making his fourth career start Edgar Martinez Jersey , Toussaint was chased after Yadier Molina’s RBI single cut the lead to 5-2 in the sixth.“We survived the first couple of innings with essentially zero fastball command, then suddenly we had some decent command of it and were able to flip the script and challenge guys with some early contacts,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “If he gets ahead of guys, it’s a tough arsenal to defend.”Flaherty (8-8) gave up five hits, a season-high five runs and two walks with six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Facing the Braves for the first time, Flaherty began the game as the NL rookie leader in strikeouts, winning percentage and opponents’ batting average. He had gone 4-1 with 1.69 ERA in his previous eight starts.Flowers doubled to begin the three-run fifth and scored on a wild pitch. Freeman chased Flaherty with an RBI single, and the lead swelled to four runs on a double steal by Ender Inciarte and Freeman. The Braves successfully challenged to get the call overturned that Freeman had been tagged out.“I thought things went well early, then Freeman put a good swing on a ball and then in that one inning things kind of got away,” Flaherty said. “I put a couple of guys on base with walks and then Freeman put another good swing on the ball.”Atlanta added a run to make it 6-2 in the seventh. Inciarte doubled and scored when second baseman Kolten Wong threw errantly to first on a potential double play grounder.Jedd Gyorko’s sacrifice fly in the eighth cut the lead to 6-3. Flowers’ eighth homer in the bottom half of the inning made it 7-3.At least for one game, Atlanta played well at home, where it had dropped 14 of 18 and has won just one of its past seven series.Freeman, who became the first Braves first baseman with 20 homers and 10 stolen bases in a season since Dale Murphy in 1978, wants his teammates to enjoy the pennant race and not press.“It’s fun. It really is Ryon Healy Jersey ,” Freeman said. “This is what you work for six, seven months. To be in this situation this year, it’s the greatest feeling there is.”OUCHHarrison Bader was hit in the back of the helmet by a pitch in the third, but he convinced St. Louis’ trainers that he wasn’t affected and jogged to first. Going deep against Toussaint for his 12th homer in the fifth, Bader said he felt no measure of revenge. Toussaint wasn’t trying to hit him.“The two are completely independent of each other, honestly,” Bader said. “I was just trying to make a good swing.”UP NEXTCardinals: RHP John Gant (7-6, 3.53 ERA) will start when St. Louis, following a day off, opens a three-game home series against San Francisco. He allowed six hits and six runs in his previous start, a 17-4 loss to the Dodgers.Braves: RHP Kevin Gausman (10-10, 3.92 ERA) will make his ninth start since being acquired in a trade with Baltimore as Atlanta tries to pad its lead on the Phillies. He is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four starts at SunTrust Park.

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