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Orioles-Tigers series preview: September 9-11

The battle for the second wild card comes to a head this weekend as the Orioles and Tigers, separated by only one game in the standings, face off for three games in Detroit.

Detroit Tigers v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Orioles start a three-game series tonight with the Tigers, and I don’t want to be dramatic but this is the biggest series they have played so far this season. The Orioles have been clinging to the second wild card spot for awhile now, and they go into Detroit with a slim one-game lead over the Tigers in the standings.

If the Orioles sweep this series it will pretty much destroy the Tigers’ hopes for the postseason, putting them four games back of the second wild card with only 20 games left to play. If the Tigers sweep the series it won’t be quite as dire for the Orioles, but it will still be pretty terrible. And both teams run the risk of either the Yankees or Astros (or both) catching up to them.

If you can’t remember the last time the Orioles and Tigers faced off, that’s because it was all the way back in May. It was a good series, with the Orioles taking the first three games and almost getting the fourth before a missed check-swing call kept the game alive and Darren O’Day blew the lead.

The Tigers were playing like a completely different team in May than they are now, so winning three games against them will be a bit tougher. When they got to Baltimore on May 12th they had lost eight of their last nine games and did not look like a good team. But starting with that comeback win on May 15th they have gone 60-43, the third-best record in the AL, and have played themselves back in to contention.

Game 1: Friday, 7:10

Kevin Gausman (7-10, 3.58 ERA) vs. Michael Fulmer (10-7, 2.77 ERA)

Michael Fulmer is a pretty good candidate to win Rookie of the Year this season. He started off a little slow, including a five-run, 4 13 innings outing against the Orioles. But he’s been pretty darn good ever since. The good news for the Orioles is that he is neither a lefty nor is he a soft tosser. His fastball averages 95 miles an hour.

Has Kevin Gausman learned how to pitch on the road? Of his last three road games, two were good and one was weird, but also in a National League park so dumb. It’ll be a fastball battle as Goose’s FB averages 94.7

Game 2: Saturday, 7:10

Ubaldo Jimenez (6-11, 6.19 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (9-5, 4.44 ERA)

Of the three games being played this weekend, this is the one I really have no idea how to predict. Jordan Zimmermann started off the season looking like a great free agent pick up by the Tigers. Then he sort of fell apart, then he went on the disabled list.

He stayed there for about a month and then came back and got knocked around for six runs in less than two innings against the White Sox on August 4th. Then he went back on the DL, this will be his first start since being activated. Zimmermann certainly has the talent and the track record to make me think he could shut down the Orioles, but who knows?

Speaking of who knows: Ubaldo Jimenez, ladies and gentlemen. Since the Orioles had no choice but to put him in the rotation on August 25th, Ubaldo has been a revelation. He’s given up just seven runs in 21 23 innings and on Labor Day pitched the O’s first complete game in over two years. The most amazing thing is that in those three starts he’s given up on three walks! Ubaldo!

I don’t know if I’ll ever trust or have confidence in Ubaldo, but he’s been amazing and maybe he can keep it up!

Game 3: Sunday, 1:10

Chris Tillman (15-5, 3.76 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (14-7, 3.28 ERA)

Chris Tillman is back! Chris Tillman is back! If he can duplicate what he’s done most of the year, this is good news. If he’s the Tillman who was struggling with a sore shoulder against Houston, we could be in trouble.

As for Justin Verlander, reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Since July 2nd he has pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 102 strikes outs in 90 13 innings. He’s good, y’all.