The Orioles are returning from a triumphant road trip in which they went undefeated (2-0) and are riding high in first place in the American League East. Manny Machado has the highest WAR in baseball, Adam Jones and Chris Davis are heating up, and even the starting pitching hasn't been too bad. Now they're home for seven games starting with a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers haven't had the same success early in the season that the Orioles have. After 24 games they were 14-10 but then lost seven games in a row. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games and last night they struck out 20 times against Max Scherzer.
Their offense hasn't been the problem; While thier OPS+ is just above average at 102, they are averaging 4.38 runs per game. The usual suspects of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler are all performing well at the plate, joined by surprise performers Nick Castellanos and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Castellanos is having a great year at the plate, hitting .378/.405/.640.
Jordan Zimmermann was the Tigers big offseason acquisition, signing a five-year, $110 million contract. He hasn't disappointed, either. Through Tuesday he had pitched to a 1.10 ERA in six starts. He's averaging almost 7 innings per start and while his strikeout numbers are down from his time in the National League but opposing batters aren't getting hard contact against him. He's been tough. But good news, friends! The Orioles are not facing Zimmermann in this series! Instead they are facing the other four members of the rotation and they have not been good.
Game 1: Thursday, May 12th, 7:05 PM
Ubaldo Jimenez (6 GS, 35.2 IP, 4.54 ERA) vs. Mike Pelfrey (6 GS, 30.1 IP, 6.23 ERA)
There isn't much to say about Ubaldo Jimenez. There is no use trying to predict if we'll see good Ubaldo or bad Ubaldo, instead we just have to hold on to hope that he'll pitch better than the other guy. And in this instance, he probbly will.
While Ubaldo has been up and down this year, but Mike Pelfrey has just been down. After two decent starts to start the season, Pelfrey has fallen apart. He has given up five runs in each of his last three starts. In his most recent start against the Rangers he gave up three home runs. His strikeout per nine and walks per nine both sit at 4.5, which is pretty bad. The Orioles should destroy him.
Game 2: Friday, May 13th, 7:05 PM
Chris Tillman (7 GS, 38.1 IP, 3.05 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (7 GS, 41.2 IP, 5.40 ERA)
Justin Verlander in 2015 is not the Justin Verlander that we have spent so many years watching. His fastball velocity has been slowly dropping over the past few years, though he still averages >92 on his fastball. He's struggling with walks this year and he's been homer prone. It's impossible to write Verlander off, though. But that 5.40 ERA is the product of two games in which he gave up seven runs each. In in other five starts he hasn't given up more than three runs and he's coming off of a seven inning, no-run game against the Rangers.
Chris Tillman is having a nice bounceback season so far but has walked four batters in each of his last two starts. Don't do that anymore, Chris.
Game 3: Saturday, May 14th, 7:05 PM
Mike Wright (5 GS, 29.1 IP, 5.83 ERA) vs. Anibal Sanchez (7 GS, 36.2 IP, 5.89 ERA)
I was at the only game the Orioles lost against the A's last weekend, and Mike Wright was the pitcher. He was the victim of some bad luck in that game, but he tends to inspire the least amount of confidence of anyone in the rotation. He's actually been pretty good against righties this year, it's the lefties that kill him. The Tigers are a righty-heavy team, but I'm a little nervous just thinking about him facing Victor Martinez.
Anibal Sanchez is having his troubles this season. He walks a healthy number of guys, usually around three per start (although he walked seven batters in 5.2 innings last week - ouch), which could benefit the newly patient Orioles hitters. He's also given up six home runs on the year which I predict will go up.
Game 4: Sunday, May 15th, 1:35 PM
Kevin Gausman (4 GS, 25 IP, 2.16 ERA) vs. Michael Fulmer (3 GS, 15 IP, 6.00 ERA)
Michael Fulmer is a 23-year-old rookie who was drafted in the first round by the Mets and included in the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes from Detroit to New York. It's certainly too soon to make any determinations about him as a pitcher, though he has yet to pitch more than 5 innings in a start. He was a strikeout pitcher in the minors and that has continued into his limited major league action. He can dial up his fastball to about 97, so there will be a lot of gas thrown between him and Kevin Gausman.
And speaking of Gausman, swoon. He's the best starter in the O's rotation and his starts are what I look forward to the most this year (other than all the dongs). This should be a good game.