After feasting on the soft underbelly of the National League for a few days, it's time to get serious again. The big boys of the Detroit Tigers are coming to town, and they like to score a lot of runs.
That's the standard introduction I'm used to giving any time that a powerful offense is arriving. The thing is, though, that the Orioles have scored five more runs than the Tigers up to this point. Sure, they've played two more games, but these teams are on pretty close to equal footing in scoring. They have Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez. They have big, strong guys. The Orioles are on par with them in scoring runs. Chris Davis has more home runs than Cabrera! It is astounding.
The biggest difference is in the pitching staffs: the Orioles have allowed 252 runs and the Tigers have only allowed 205. You don't have to look far to see why. The Tigers have the second-best starting rotation ERA in the American League and are among the top five in innings pitched. The O's starters have an ERA more than a full point higher than the Tigers.
If you want to know how the Tigers do it, that is a pretty simple answer: strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. Tigers starters have struck out 354 batters in 323 innings. You expect that from Justin Verlander, but they are getting a lot from others as well, such as Anibal Sanchez - who has struck out more than Verlander so far this year, though we won't be seeing him in this series - and tonight's starter Max Scherzer. 81 strikeouts in 68.1 IP. That is for real. He has allowed 47 hits while surrendering 16 walks. That is a WHIP of less than 1 over ten starts. Wow.
Stability in the rotation is another factor, with only five pitchers making starts for the Tigers. The Orioles have had eleven guys make starts. At least tonight is one of the better ones, in Miguel Gonzalez. It looks bleak, but so did it against Jordan Zimmermann two nights ago, and that was no problem for the Orioles.
Scherzer, and the Tigers starters generally, do not give up a ton of home runs. The Orioles rely heavily on home runs. One of these will give in the series, and the team that gets the break in favor of them will have the advantage. The weather is heating up in Baltimore, so perhaps that will be the recipe for even more home runs. They lead MLB in home runs and slugging percentage and are in second in categories like runs scored, batting average, and stolen bases (!!!).
Seriously, who is this team? I hope they stick around for a while. Maybe with some better pitching. That would be all right.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||DETROIT TIGERS|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Omar Infante - 2B|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Andy Dirks - LF|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Miguel Cabrera - 3B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Prince Fielder - 1B|
|Chris Davis - 1B||Victor Martinez - DH|
|Matt Wieters - C||Jhonny Peralta - SS|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Alex Avila - C|
|Chris Dickerson - DH||Avisail Garcia - CF|
|Ryan Flaherty - 2B||Don Kelly - RF|