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Astros' Morton to test shoulder vs. Orioles before playoffs

By Jeff Seidel, The Sports Xchange
Astros' Morton to test shoulder vs. Orioles before playoffs
Charlie Morton and the Houston Astros face the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. Pool Photo by Matt Slocum/UPI | License Photo

BALTIMORE -- The Houston Astros will get one more tuneup for the playoffs on Sunday when they meet the Baltimore Orioles in the finale of the four-game series and the last game of the regular season at Camden Yards.

Houston (103-58) is headed to the American League Division Series to meet the Cleveland Indians starting Oct. 5. The Orioles (46-115) are headed home after the worst season in franchise history.

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Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.18 ERA) starts for the Astros. The Orioles announced after Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader -- which the Astros swept -- that Jimmy Yacabonis (0-2, 6.00) gets the ball.

Morton came out of his last start after just one inning because of shoulder issues and told the media Saturday that there's still some tightness there. It's expected Morton will not pitch very long Sunday, but the veteran is looking toward the playoffs.

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"Part of the difficulty is the mental side of it; sometimes you just don't feel right," Morton told the media. "Sometimes you feel something's wrong when there really isn't anything that's that bad, and you have to kind of accept that. I'm trying to loosen things up and get in a better spot overall and try to get ready to pitch in October."

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Morton has a 1-2 career record with a 5.40 ERA against the Orioles.

Yacabonis has filled in at times and made spot starts for Baltimore as the team tries to convert him into a starter. He's been up and down but pitched well at times, just like Yefry Ramirez, who lost Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader.

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Yacabonis has never pitched against in Astros in his brief major league career.

The Astros have shown some power in this series, especially in the doubleheader where they banged out five homers overall en route to their sweep of the slumping Orioles.

Baltimore just hasn't come up with enough offense against the tough Houston starters, which has been a problem for many teams the last few years, but the Orioles have battled that issue all season.

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"We're just not doing much offensively against some good pitching (in this series)," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the doubleheader.

Sunday's game also could represent another bigger step in the rebuilding process that Baltimore began to undertake when it traded off several players around the deadline two months ago.

It could be the final game for Showalter, who has been the team's manager since August 2010 and led them to the playoffs three times.

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Adam Jones, the face of the team in recent years and one of its most popular players, is about to hit free agency, and GM Dan Duquette's contract, like Showalter's, expires after this season.

The Orioles could let all three of them go and would be looking at a major rebuild. If so, that would disappoint many fans because of how popular Jones and Showalter are with them.

So even though Sunday's game means nothing to Baltimore other than the end to a very trying season, it could very well be the final page in a chapter of the team's history.

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