Joe Saunders is still searching for his first win. His next start seems to present his best opportunity to get one.
The Texas Rangers starter is 7-0 in his career against the Baltimore Orioles, who will be without Manny Machado and are turning to a starter who is winless in his last nine outings.
The luckless Ubaldo Jimenez owns baseball’s lowest run support average as he matches up with Saunders in Monday night’s opener of a four-game set at Camden Yards.
Saunders (0-4, 5.19 ERA) is a 10-year veteran who spent nearly two months on the disabled list this year due to a bruised left ankle. He is 0-7 with a 6.22 ERA in his last 11 starts, and has failed to make it past the fifth inning in consecutive defeats in which he has yielded 13 runs over 8 2-3 innings.
The left-hander may be feeling positive signs ahead of another outing against the Orioles (42-39), who he made seven starts for in 2012. Saunders owns a 3.98 ERA in 10 starts versus Baltimore, with the only defeat for any of his teams an 8-3 loss June 3 in which he gave up two runs in six innings.
Former Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz is a .303 hitter with two homers against him and Adam Jones is batting .318 in their matchups. Jones also ranks among baseball’s leaders with a .412 average against left-handers.
Jimenez (2-8, 4.70) can relate to Saunders’ winless stretch since the Baltimore right-hander is 0-4 with a 4.69 ERA since winning at Tampa Bay on May 8. It’s clearly not all his fault as his 2.45 run support average demonstrates.
The Orioles lead the majors with 42 homers in June but failed to give Jimenez any support for the third time in four outings Wednesday, as he allowed four runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-4, 12-inning win over the Chicago White Sox.
Jimenez is 3-2 with a 2.83 ERA in seven career starts against Texas (37-44), and he opposed Saunders earlier this month and gave up one run in 5 2-3 innings.
The Orioles fell 12-7 on Sunday to lose three of four at home to last-place Tampa Bay. They allowed season highs in runs, homers (five) and hits (18).
”Times like this, you’d like to come out with a W when you score seven runs,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Showalter will be without Machado for the next five games after Major League Baseball upheld his suspension on Monday.
Machado, who homered for the third time in four games Sunday, originally was suspended June 10 for intentionally throwing his bat on the field during an at-bat in Baltimore’s game against Oakland on June 8.
Cruz went 4 for 13 with a homer against the Rangers between June 3-5 in his first series against the club with which he spent his previous eight seasons.
Texas has lost nine of 11 and reached the halfway mark of the season with its fewest wins since 2007.
”We’re just in a situation right now where we’ve got guys hurt and we’re going to go out there and compete,” pitcher Colby Lewis said. ”That’s all Wash (manager Ron Washington) asks us to do.”
Adrian Beltre is 8 for 20 off Jimenez, and he’s batting .395 with 15 RBIs over his last 20 games for the Rangers.
Alex Rios is in a 1-for-18 slide and is batting .164 in his last 15 games. He’s 2 for 17 off Jimenez.