Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles
The All-Star break is officially over, and, as FOX told us about 14,832.7 times in the last month, the road to October starts here. The divisions will start to take shape, the pennant races will heat up, and the playoffs will be anticipated with the greatest delight. For the Detroit Tigers, the road begins in Baltimore, where the Orioles held onto the top spot in the American League East for most of the first half. They’re currently behind the Yankees, who just can’t be stopped, but the Orioles still have a very good team, and they should remain in the Wild Card race down the stretch. The Tigers are riding a five-game winning streak, and looking to do some damage in hitter-friendly Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This could very well be the defining series for the 2012 Detroit Tigers, so who will come out on top?
Friday – 7/13/12
Doug Fister vs. Jason Hammel
Fister has been wild in his last few starts, and very uncharacteristic of the pitcher Detroit fans have come to know and love. His last start prior to the break looked promising though, as if he’d finally shaken off any lingering doubt from his abdominal strain earlier this season. Hopefully moving forward he’s the Fister we remember. His numbers against Baltimore, though, have been mixed. While he’s seen some run support at 2-1, his ERA is 4.68 and there are several active roster members that hit well over .400 against him. (Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Wilson Betemit, and Chris Davis.) So in a park that yields lots of big hits, it’ll be Fister’s job to keep the Orioles guessing. If they can’t put the ball in play, they can’t hurt him.
Jason Hammel comes into the season with a very respectable 8-5 record and 3.47 ERA. Fortunately for the Tigers, though, his last three starts have left him 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA. Like Fister, his success against the opposition has been mixed, with a 2-0 record and 6.20 ERA. However, as this is his first year in Baltimore, most of that damage came during his time with Tampa Bay and Colorado. Also like Fister, the Tigers can field a lineup that has beat up Hammel pretty well. This game will undoubtedly come down to which pitcher can have a better night, because with the Tigers’ current hot streak and the numbers against both pitchers, it could easily turn into quite the slugfest in Baltimore.
Saturday – 7/14/12
Max Scherzer vs. Wei-Yin Chen
There are nothing but good things to say about Max right now. He is finally pitching like everyone knew he could, and doing so on a regular basis. He’s had four quality starts in a row, and could easily turn that 8-5 record into 11-5 or 12-5 before the month is over. That goal starts right now, as Max has decent numbers against Baltimore with a 4.05 ERA. Only Adam Jones has great numbers off of him, too. (I’m ignoring the fact that Jim Thome plays for Baltimore now because Thome hits every Detroit pitcher well without question.) So it should be a game that Max can continue his quality start streak, and hopefully put the Tigers in a great position heading back home to Comerica Park.
Wei-Yin Chen is another Orioles pitcher having a successful year so far. He’s 7-5 with a 3.93 ERA. For a rookie playing in the American League East for a team that’s generally at the bottom of the standings, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately for Detroit, that means no one has ever seen him before, and that could spell trouble. The Tigers have a habit this season of making inexperienced and struggling pitchers look like Cy Young candidates. Fortunately, he’s 0-2 with a 6.62 ERA in his last three starts. That always bodes well for the opposition, especially in a place like Oriole Park.
Sunday – 7/15/12
Justin Verlander vs. Chris Tillman
After looking remarkably terrible in his All-Star appearance Tuesday night, Verlander is looking to bounce back and get on track towards another 19- to 20-win season. He’s already 9-5, and that was with a team struggling offensively and a bullpen facing its fair share of inconsistency and injury. But the bullpen is quickly getting worked out, J.V. already has five complete games this season, and the offense has shown some real life. So, like Scherzer, Verlander could easily be 12-5 or 13-5 by the end of the month. That’s a pretty nice situation to be in. This is his chance, too, because he’s never lost to the Orioles before (at 6-0) and has a 3.05 ERA against them. The best hitters in the Baltimore lineup (including Jim Thome) have paltry numbers against him. Verlander will use this game to prove to everyone that no, possibly dating Kate Upton did not ruin his all-star performance.
Chris Tillman has only recently rejoined the team, pitching 8 1/3 scoreless innings in his season debut. Fortunately, that won’t continue, considering he has a lifetime 4.07 ERA against the Tigers, with only one win to show for his 24 innings of work. That probably has something to do with Miguel Cabrera’s .429 average against him. But that’s just a guess.
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Tigers
Final: Tigers sweep the series 3-0
I know it’s unlikely, but I really like these pitching matchups in favor of Detroit. While I don’t if Fister will actually get the win, I think Detroit can out-hit Baltimore on Friday. Saturday and Sunday I expect the Detroit rotation to own the opposition, sending the Tigers home with an 8-game winning streak to square off with the L.A. Angels.