Jason Hammel was the Orioles' best pitcher in the first half of the season. Can he open up the second half strong against the Tigers? (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
BASEBALL! YOU'RE BACK! (pause for a minute while sobbing uncontrollably) I THOUGHT I'D LOST YOU FOREVER!
We've made it through these dark days, people. Now, you may ask how do I make it through the offseason if the All-Star Break is hard? The answer to that is simple: I am trained to endure five months of virtually no baseball each year. But I don't know how to handle four days of no baseball. So maybe there was a little bit of freaking out and doing crazy things like writing about Jason Vargas rumors. You know, anything to get through the day.
It's now after the All-Star Break. I'm guessing not many people would have guessed that the Orioles would have a better record than the Tigers heading into this series, but that is the case. Whether it will be the case at the end of the series is another story. Time to find out what this team is made of. Nick Markakis is back. He's batting first tonight, which will be for the first time in his career that he has done so. You might think that you will get an outfield consisting of real outfielders, but no, because Chris Davis is in left field. I'd rather see his bat and glove than Endy Chavez's bat and glove, so I guess that's OK.
Coming out of the break, the O's can pitch their best starter so far: Jason Hammel. That 3.47 ERA has been lower this year but still looks pretty nice. Can Hammel work his sinkerball and strikeout repertoire against this Detroit lineup? The Tigers were down low for a while but appear to be on the way back.
While the O's are undoubtedly starting their best pitcher out of the break, the Tigers, on the other hand, have Doug Fister starting tonight. Fister is back to being the guy who had 4+ ERAs in Seattle. This year he has a 4.76 ERA through 60.2 IP - that's over eleven starts, so he's not exactly eating innings. He has allowed eight home runs in those 60 innings. When the Orioles are doing well, they tend to hit home runs. Good sign? Maybe. Fister either has bad BABIP luck (.335) or he's pulling an Arrieta and throwing a lot of hittable pitches. Either way, he's getting more than 50% ground balls, which should be working out better for him.
In the Tigers lineup are both Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn, who together represent two of the three players with a lower Fangraphs WAR than Chavez. Boesch is -1.3 (mostly due to his UZR being -11.2 runs) and Raburn is -1.4. Given how the O's have tended to do against crappy hitters this year, I expect them to combine for three home runs tonight.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||DETROIT TIGERS|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Austin Jackson - CF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Quintin Berry - LF|
|Jim Thome - DH||Miguel Cabrera - 3B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Prince Fielder - 1B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Delmon Young - DH|
|Chris Davis - LF||Brennan Boesch - RF|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Jhonny Peralta - SS|
|Wilson Betemit - 3B||Alex Avila - C|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Ryan Raburn - 2B|