Remember when the Orioles were playing meaningful baseball in September? It just feels different when there’s something on the line. Baltimore won’t be battling for a playoff spot this year, but these next four games in Detroit could be the most important series of the season.
Detroit enters the matchup holding pole position in the race for the number one pick in 2020. If the Orioles are going to dethrone the Tigers in the race to the basement, they’ll need to lose at least three of the next four games.
Of course, the players on the field will be trying to win. Brandon Hyde has been very clear, and convincing, when stating that the guys in that clubhouse are trying to win games. They don’t care about which 18- to 21-year-old is projected to be a better pro in several years, they want to win every game they can. Many are auditioning for a job next season, and no one will be dogging it just so the Birds have a better shot at numero uno.
Someone has to be the worst team in the league this season, and one team has to pick first next summer. The Orioles had the top selection this year, and it landed them Adley Rutschman. There may not be a surefire top pick awaiting teams next year, but the front office and fans would both like to see Baltimore have the first crack at it.
So how are things looking? The Orioles are doing what they can to help their own cause by starting three pitchers with ERAs above five. Will it be enough? I guess we’ll see.
Game 1: Friday, 7:10
RHP Aaron Brooks (6-13, 5.06) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-10, 6.27)
Aaron Brooks has been difficult to watch at times this year, but Zimmermann appears to have him beat. That record and ERA pairing really jumps off the page with a “wow, that has to hurt” type of feeling.
Brooks pitched a rare gem against the Nationals during his last August start. He held Washington to only two hits through six strong innings. However, he failed to reproduce anything close to the start in his last two outings. The righty allowed six runs in only 2.2 innings his last time out against Texas.
Zimmermann’s ERA is inflated by some brutal starts in July. Don’t get me wrong, he’s struggled all season. But Zimmermann delivered a quality start in two of his last three outings, and he’s capable of holding a lineup in check on any given night.
Game 2: Saturday, 6:10
RHP Gabriel Ynoa (1-8, 5.79) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (3-12, 4.72)
Gabriel Ynoa will take the mound for another audition for starts next year. While a good outing against the Tigers will not pencil him into next year’s rotation, it’s a golden opportunity for Ynoa to post a quality start. Ynoa could flash some potential to keep Mike Elias and whoever hasn’t been let go yet interested.
The Tigers have reduced Norris to three-inning starts, and that will likely continue on Saturday as Detroit looks to keep his innings in check. He’s allowed at least one run in his last three outings (all three innings), so Baltimore could still get to him early. After that, the Orioles will face a Detroit bullpen with a collective 4.95 ERA.
Game 3: Sunday, 1:10
RHP Asher Wojciechowski (2-8, 5.51) vs RHP Edwin Jackson (3-9, 9.76)
Yes, Edwin Jackson is still pitching for a Major League team. Now 36, Jackson has posted some brutal numbers in 12 starts for Detroit. His 9.76 ERA feels like it has to be a misprint, but it checks out when you see his 2.034 WHIP and -2.3 WAR. Jackson’s roster spot on the Tigers is the epitome of “well, someone has to start these games.” I’m not going to lie, it will be tough for the Orioles to stay off the scoreboard in this one.
Asher Wojciechowski could also benefit from an audition against Detroit. After some early success this season, Woj has leveled off. He held the Rays to four runs across seven innings on September 2, but needed only two innings to allow four runs against Rangers his last time out.
Game 4: Monday, 4:10
LHP John Means (10-10, 3.47) vs. LHP Tyler Alexander (0-3, 5.40)
John Means will start Monday to provide some credibility for this Orioles pitching staff. While the Orioles are definitely monitoring how many innings Means has pitched this year, he’s been able to stay in games because of how efficiently he works. Means has worked into the seventh inning in his last four starts, and did not throw more than 100 pitches in any of the four starts. After back-to-back wins, Means could have notched two more if the Orioles offense had scored earlier and more frequently during his last times out.
I know very little about Tyler Alexander besides the fact that he has a strong last name. Alexander started his first five games of 2019, but has worked out of the bullpen for the last month. He’ll get the spot start due to the Tigers double-header on Thursday.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Tigers?
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