Series Preview – Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers
After finally managing to win on the road, the Tigers come back home to open a long homestand that will hopefully translate into a lot of winning. They’ll first have to get past one of the two A.L. Wild Card teams, though, as the Orioles look to make up some ground in the A.L. East. But with a newly retooled rotation, Detroit is pitting their best against the O’s, and hoping to bring home the series victory.
Friday – 8/17/12
Tommy Hunter vs. Justin Verlander
Hunter has been struggling this season, as the O’s are putting up next to no run support for him, and his own ERA is at 5.54. But he’s been very strong against the Tigers. In 14 innings pitched, Hunter is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA. To have that kind of success against a team that includes two of the best power hitters in the game is unreal. In fact, Cabrera is only 1/6 lifetime against Hunter, and Fielder hasn’t faced him yet. So it’ll be good for Hunter’s season and confidence if he can continue to put up those numbers.
He’ll need to be that good, considering the guy on the mound for Detroit. Justin Verlander is undefeated in ten career starts against the Orioles, going 7-0 with a 2.71 ERA. No one in this lineup hits him with any sort of regularity, which is something he’ll need if he wants to out-duel Hunter and bring home the win for Detroit.
Saturday – 8/18/12
Zach Britton vs. Rick Porcello
The Tigers are desperate to string together a win streak right now and possibly overtake the White Sox in the A.L. Central before the head-to-head matchups with Chicago around Labor Day. There won’t be a better opportunity than this. Britton has an 8.10 ERA in five starts this season, and four of those starts were against teams that the Orioles had legitimate shots at beating (Minnesota, Cleveland, Oakland, and Seattle). So if this is what Britton brings to the table this year, then it’ll be a veritable feast for the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers have seen him once, though, and he got the win in that game, despite only lasting five innings and walking away with an ERA of 9.00 in that start. Hopefully the home crowd and the pennant race will make this time a little different.
To accomplish that, the Tigers need Rick Porcello to get back on top of his A-game. He’s still hit-or-miss with his stuff, and is giving up a lot of hits. The only reason he has nine wins is because the offense is really helping him out about half the time. Rick can’t show up and hope for the best from the bats. He needs to keep the hits off the board, which, granted, is hard when you’re a ground ball pitcher and batters don’t have to try too hard to find holes and sneak singles past the infield. But something has to be done, or else Porcello will never be that all-star pitcher everyone thought he could be.
Sunday – 8/19/12
Wei-Yin Chen vs. Doug Fister
Chen has been the star of the Orioles’ rotation this season, going 11-7 with a 3.70 ERA. He’s continued to succeed, despite the team as a whole losing some of the momentum it had early on in the year. He’s only had one career start against the Tigers, though (the last time they were in Baltimore this season), but his ERA in that time was 1.50. He’s the real deal, and it’ll be hard to overcome that kind of success, regardless of how good your team is or how poor the other team is.
This is where the Tigers have retooled their rotation, though. Anibal Sanchez was scheduled start in this game, but due to his struggles since being acquired (and the day off at just the right time), Fister will pitch on regular rest, pushing Sanchez back to Tuesday. Doug has been his old phenomenal self lately. His win-loss record is back in order at 7-7. He stands a chance of putting up 15 wins for the season. His ERA for the season is 3.24, and is 1.16 in his last three starts. And he has a fair amount of success against Baltimore (3-1, 3.94 ERA). This is how you want to end a series, and start the push to October. You couldn’t ask for a better pitcher to put you in that position, either.
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Tigers
Final: Tigers win the series 3-0
There’s no betting against Verlander. He won’t put up the same ridiculously gaudy numbers as last season, but he’s still one of the best in baseball, and betting against him when facing a team he simply owns is a bad move. Porcello will give up a lot of hits, but he and the defense have been pretty good about not letting those hits translate into a lot of runs. Since Baltimore really doesn’t have a big power hitter anymore, eight hits over six innings shouldn’t be anything to worry about (or create an insurmountable lead of any kind). Plus, Britton is bad right now, plain and simple. As for Fister, he’ll have his hands full against Chen, but Doug is back to proper form, and looking for his first winning season of his major league career (hard to believe, considering how good he really is). With a little help from the offense, there’s no way the Tigers don’t sweep this series before Toronto comes to town on Tuesday.