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Orioles-Tigers series preview: Looking to continue the hot streak

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Fresh off a series in which the Orioles abruptly cooled off the sizzling Royals, the O's will look to keep their own hot streak going against a struggling Tigers team.

Division Series - Detroit Tigers v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two
J.J. Hardy sliding into home at the end of The Double.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

A few days ago, when the clock struck midnight on the trade deadline, the Orioles were, at best, on the fringes of the wild card picture. Teams closer to the top than them ended up as sellers. Here we are a few days later and the Orioles have pulled themselves to within 2.5 games of a playoff spot. Though the O's are still sporting a below-.500 record, things have gotten interesting again in Birdland.

Next up are the Tigers. They have got to have one of the more disappointing seasons in MLB this year. Detroit opened the season with a payroll of about $200 million and here at the beginning of August what they have to show for it is that they are eight games below .500 and 8.5 games out of their division lead.

They traded their best hitter, J.D. Martinez, and tried to trade Justin Verlander - only nobody seems to have wanted that contract. They had a closer, Justin Wilson, who seemed to have escaped the gravity of the Tigers Bullpen reputation - at least somewhat - and they traded him, too. The GM had to trade his own son, for crying out loud.

Big money man Miguel Cabrera isn't quite earning his keep. Father Time may have finally caught up to Victor Martinez. The $110 million man Jordan Zimmermann has an ERA closer to 6 than to 5. Hope for the future is somewhat limited because they are already committed to paying those three guys and Verlander a combined $100 million next season.

The Tigers have yet to have a winning month this season. The best that they've managed is a 12-12 April. One of their particular problems is very similar to the Orioles: They are bad on the road, with just a 22-32 record away from Comerica Park.

A certain outcome to this series is suggested by the above information, but the Orioles can't exactly rest on their laurels yet. They won a few games against the Royals to make this series a bit more meaningful, and that was nice, but unless they keep winning games, it's not going to matter all that much. They will need to keep pitching well and playing all-around good baseball to keep this going.

Game 1 - Thursday, 7:05

Starters: Matt Boyd (5-5, 5.30 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (1-6, 7.65 ERA)

The Orioles have won five straight games without Tillman pitching. Is that a coincidence? Maybe not. His problem this season is just about everything, though he's at least been less terrible at Camden Yards, so that's something. Righties and lefties destroy him equally in 2017. It's a mess. We all know this by now.

The 26-year-old Boyd is a lefty, but this is not something to dread quite as much as in some recent years. The Orioles are actually 20-16 in games started by opposing lefty pitchers this season. I know, I didn't expect it either! Boyd is not a soft-tosser, averaging about 92mph on the fastball.

Right-handers have been the biggest problem for Boyd in his 14 starts, as you would guess. He has allowed an .859 OPS to them and they have hit all nine of the home runs he's allowed. We can certainly expect Seth Smith and Hyun Soo Kim to be on the bench. Things have gone a bit better for Boyd in three post-All-Star starts, with just a 4.19 ERA since the break.

Game 2 - Friday, 7:05

Starters: Justin Verlander (6-7, 4.29 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (8-7, 5.37 ERA)

Is there a new 2017 edition of Gausman that we've seen over his past three starts, or will it turn out that the Rangers, who he faced in two of those three starts, are just that bad? Birdland waits with bated breath to find out.

You may recall that Verlander was the runner-up in the AL Cy Young voting last season. He is following that up with what is among the worst seasons of his 13-year MLB career. And for all of that, he would still have the best ERA among Orioles starting pitchers.

What's been the problem for Verlander? Well, he's walking batters at a higher rate than he has ever done before, and the BABIP against him has jumped from the .255 of last season to the .304 of this season. Bad luck or something else? Whatever it is, here's hoping it continues for this O's series. He is still striking out nearly a batter per inning, so no one should be surprised if he sets a new season high in this game.

Game 3 - Saturday, 7:05

Starters: Michael Fulmer (10-9, 3.59 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (5-9, 5.60 ERA)

Miley is coming off of a July in which he had an 8.68 ERA over six starts, where batters went .342/.432/.530 against him. I mean, ouch. He was decent enough in his most recent start, but again, was that just the Rangers?

It's a tough draw for Miley to go up against Fulmer, who's been the bright spot on the Tigers pitching staff this season. The 2016 American League Rookie of the Year has basically been performing like we might have hoped Gausman would be doing for the O's at his age.

Fulmer is doing it without many strikeouts, just a 6.4 K/9, but he is also only walking two batters per nine innings and keeping the ball mostly in the ballpark. The result is that his FIP doesn't suggest a pitcher getting lucky. In fact, it's lower than his ERA at 3.45.

Game 4 - Sunday, 1:35

Starters: Anibal Sanchez (3-1, 5.83 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (4-7, 6.56 ERA)

Tigers fans will probably be glad to see the back of Sanchez, who had a good first two seasons of a five year contract and since then has a 5.50 ERA. Sanchez was booted from the rotation both last year and this year, but here he is back again, due to injuries and a lack of there being anyone else.

With Jimenez pitching for the Orioles, it's a game that looks a lot like a slugfest coming up, doesn't it? Baseball is always capable of surprising us, but a lot of the time what happens in baseball is exactly what you would expect to happen. Those times just aren't as memorable as the surprising ones.

The long ball is a particular problem for Sanchez. He's given up 14 homers in just 66.1 innings pitched this season. A good sign for the Orioles? Let's hope so.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    0 (Orioles get swept)
    (5 votes)
  • 4%
    1
    (13 votes)
  • 26%
    2
    (83 votes)
  • 50%
    3
    (162 votes)
  • 17%
    4 (Orioles sweep)
    (56 votes)
319 votes total Vote Now