The beautiful thing about Orioles Magic is that it does not care who is your starting pitcher. It does not care about who the opposing team's starting pitcher is, either. If it is meant to be, it finds a way. Max Scherzer can strike out a double-digit number of Orioles hitters and still it finds a way. For their next trick, can the magicians overcome the challenge of Justin Verlander?
Despite striking out over 11 batters per nine innings and only allowing three home runs across 66 innings pitched on the season, Verlander has not been his typically dominant self in terms of the results in his ERA. He's sporting a 3.68, which looks good if you're an Orioles fan, but is not Verlander-good. He is in a rough patch over his last four starts, giving up at least three runs in each, including a disastrous eight runs in 2.2 IP in Texas on May 16.
When Verlander won the Cy Young in 2011, the BABIP of his opposing hitters was .236. This year, it is .368. That will do it. Bad luck? Perhaps. Bad defense? Perhaps. Having Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners is signing up for a certain lack of range. If the Orioles can string together some of those "lucky" hits in the middle of all the strikeouts today, they may be able to find some more magic after all. Verlander is only averaging six innings per start on the season, so there is some potential to get into that bullpen. We saw last night what can happen when Jose Valverde is unleashed.
Against this Tigers offense, with Jason Hammel pitching, they will probably need the runs, too. They've been good at scoring runs for Hammel, which is why he has a 7-2 record despite a 4.98 ERA. This is probably, as they say, unsustainable. But the long run doesn't matter so much today, just whether they can do it yet again today. Verlander can have an off day, although you shouldn't count on that. Orioles batters have a combined 167 plate appearances against Verlander and are batting .178/.224/.257. Verlander turns the entire Orioles lineup into Ryan Flaherty.
For Hammel, only four Tigers hitters have seen him more than ten times. These are their OPS numbers against him: .857, 1.121, .900, 1.178.
If he keeps the ball down, the day could go well. He has not kept the ball down this year. It will be in the low-to-mid 90s at first pitch, with about 40% humidity. That means home runs, and with Verlander pitching, probably not Orioles home runs.
Stranger things have happened, right?
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||DETROIT TIGERS|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Omar Infante - 2B|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Andy Dirks - RF|
|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||Matt Tuiasosopo - LF|
|Ryan Flaherty - 2B||Avisail Garcia - CF|