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ALDS 2014: Orioles vs. Tigers game one preview

The day has arrived! The Orioles host the Tigers today at 5:37 p.m. Many people around baseball are picking the Tigers, but those people probably didn't count on magic.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

ALDS Game 1
Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers
5:37 p.m. on TBS, 1090 WBAL, ESPN Radio

It feels like forever since we've seen Orioles baseball, doesn't it? Part of that is because they haven't played since Sunday, but also because they clinched way back on September 16th and have only been playing a watered down version of Orioles baseball since then. But tonight they are back at full strength, playing in their second ALDS in the past three seasons. We're all hoping that this year they won't stop at the ALDS, and to do that they need to beat some very good starting pitchers for the Detroit Tigers. Tonight's match up is Chris Tillman vs. Max Scherzer, with Scherzer being the pitcher on the Tigers staff is the most imposing.

Max Scherzer
2014 33 220.1 3.15 2.85 1.175 .298/.234/.368
Career 198 1239.1 3.58 3.39 1.219 .242/.304/.391

You've probably heard about the Tigers defense and how it's one of their weaknesses. It's something that the Orioles can hopefully exploit in the series, but Scherzer already does his own part to neutralize it by getting over a quarter of his outs via the strikeout. It's hard to muff a ball that isn't put into play, and he's one of the best in the league at racking up K's. The Orioles didn't have the pleasure of facing him in the regular season, but they faced him twice in 2013 and in 14 innings against them he got 20 strikeouts. (He also gave up four runs, a 2.57 ERA, if you're interested in that kind of thing.)

When teams do put the ball into play against him, they most frequently hit fly balls, though the difference between those and ground balls (41.6% to 36.7%) isn't very big. Over the past few years he has kept the fly balls in the ballpark pretty well. At first that seems like it might be because Comerica Park seems giant, but he's actually had more trouble with home runs at home.

As you can see by his 220 innings pitched this season, Scherzer is an inning eater. He pitched at least six innings in 29 of his 33 starts this year, and he's capable of throwing well over 100 pitches in an outing. That's also how Scherzer helps keep the team in the win column; he doesn't give the bullpen much time to blow it. It worked, too, as the Tigers won 24 of 33 games in which he started.

Lefties hit Scherzer better than righties, though not enough that you should get excited about it. 13 of his 18 home runs allowed were to lefties, and they slugged .382 opposed to .348 for righties. Wow, .382! That's about the same as Nick Markakis.

So is there anything to be optimistic about regarding Scherzer? Although individual match ups don't generally mean much, there are a few Orioles who have done well against them in their careers. Adam Jones is 9-for-18 against Scherzer in his career with two doubles and a home run, and Nick Markakis has also had some success, 5-for-15 with two doubles and three walks. And then there is Nelson Cruz, who has slugged .800 over 26 career at-bats against him.

Chris Tillman
2014 34 207.1 3.34 4.01 1.230 .238/.298/.373
Career 118 680.1 4.00 4.51 1.296 .248/.313/.419

Chris Tillman started the only game that the Orioles won this season against the Tigers, and it was a beauty. He pitched 8 1/3 innings with just five hits allowed. One of those hits was a solo home run by Torii Hunter, which accounted for the only run in the game. Tillman has actually had pretty good success against the Tigers in his career, pitching to a 3.58 ERA over six career starts and 37 2/3 innings.

Tillman has pitched better at home this season, which could be good news for today's game. In 18 starts at home in 2014, Tillman he'd opponents to a hitting line of .224/.277/.329. He gave up 32 earned runs at home in 113 1/3 IP (2.52) at home, vs. 45 ER in 94 innings on the road (4.31).

Tillman hasn't faced any current Tiger enough times to really warrant mentioning, but I'm sure it doesn't surprise you that even in small sample size both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez have had a lot of success.