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Orioles-Tigers series preview: the O’s kick off a seven-game road trip in Detroit

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As the trade deadline arrives, the Orioles will face another rebuilding team looking to flip some trade pieces.

Texas Rangers v Detroit Tigers
The Orioles meet up with an old friend, Jonathan Schoop, in a four-game series in Comerica Park.
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The last time the Orioles and the Tigers crossed paths for a four-game series, Baltimore’s starting pitchers were Aaron Brooks, Gabriel Ynoa, Asher Wojciechowski, and John Means. That was almost two years ago, what with the shortened 2020 COVID season keeping teams stuck in their divisions. Then, the Orioles found themselves 49-101 (a .327 win percentage), en route to a 54-108 finish to the season. Now, they’re 34-65 (a .343 win percentage) and trotting out a starting rotation of Alexander Wells, Matt Harvey, John Means, and Spenser Watkins.

So … progress?

At 48-55 on the season, the 2021 Tigers are not cellar dwellers like the O’s (they’re 3rd in the AL Central, albeit 13 games back of the Chicago White Sox), but they, too, look to be sellers looking to unload talent at the trade deadline. One of their more talked-about chips is a guy pretty familiar to Baltimoreans: Jonathan Schoop, who’s playing like he wants out of Detroit, with a .335 average and near-.600 slugging percentage since June 1. Other Tigers considered likely to be moved are OF Robbie Grossman, RHP José Cisnero, and the injured hurlers Matthew Boyd and Michael Fulmer.

Injuries have hit Detroit’s starting rotation pretty hard, with Spencer Turnbull on the 60-day IL and José Urena on the 10-day IL, forcing a few emergency starts this series.

Game 1: Thursday, 7:10 ET

Alexander Wells (1-0, 4.35 ERA) vs. Casey Mize (5-5, 3.63 ERA)

Alexander Wells has appeared in only three MLB games in his career, but the slow-throwing Aussie has been solid, if not spectacular, so far. A guy with minimal velocity who relies on control, Wells’ WHIP of 1.548 is inflated from his minors career numbers, but he’s shown resilience and avoided the big inning against three tough opponents (Houston, Toronto and Tampa Bay). Against lefties, Detroit hits for better average but less power, which may be good news for Wells, who gave up two home runs in his last outing (both by Randy Arozarena).

Casey Mize has pretty much nothing in common with Alexander Wells except that they are both major-league pitchers. The No. 1 selection in the 2018 draft out of Auburn, the righty put up a 2.71 ERA with a 0.967 WHIP in two seasons in the minors before getting the call in 2020, where he struggled to a 0-3 record with a 6.99 ERA. Mize has been more effective this season, but his peripherals still haven’t been great, according to BaseballSavant, except in his low walk rate. Mize has an enviable five-pitch mix, but the Orioles will surely be glad to see a .320 opponent average on Mize’s sinker, which he throws 24% of the time.

Game 2: Friday, 7:10 ET

Matt Harvey (5-10, 6.65 ERA) vs. Tarik Skubal (6-9, 4.42 ERA)

At this point, it’s extremely difficult to look into the crystal ball and know which Matt Harvey will take the mound on Friday. After a horrific first half, Harvey pitched his way out of contention as a trade piece. But unexpectedly, he’s thrown 12 consecutive shutout innings since the All-Star break, including a sterling one-hit outing against the Nationals last time out. His strikeout rate is still down, but his walks have dropped since the season began to a respectable 2.8 per nine innings. Could Matt Harvey finally be “back”? The idea has only been floated about a million times this season by glass half-full types, only to be dashed by another bad outing. Still, this guy is a competitor, and if he maintains the command he’s shown in his last starts, he could maintain his newfound effectiveness as a control pitcher.

A 9th-round pick for Detroit in the same draft class that produced Casey Mize, Skubal has pitched in 28 games in his career, including eight this season. Skubal is primarily a fastball pitcher, although the pitch has been one of his least effective this season. The righty is working to lower his hard-hit and barrel rates (45% and 13.2%, respectively).

Game 3: Saturday, 6:10 ET

John Means (4-3, 2.94 ERA) vs. Matt Manning (2-3, 6.00 ERA)

It’s been a season of two halves for John Means. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball until a sore shoulder knocked him out of the rotation for a few weeks. First half John Means had a 2.28 ERA with an 8.7 K/9 rate; since his return that ERA is 6.94 and his K/9 rate is 3.1. However in his last start, against Washington, he allowed four runs in 6.2 innings, looking like he was shaking off the rust somewhat.

With seven career starts under his belt, all in 2021, Detroit’s No. 3 prospect is still a little green—and, as it turns out, pitching in the majors is hard. A 9th-round pick in 2016, Matt Manning has been hit up hard this season, ranking in or around the bottom tenth of MLB pitchers in average exit velocity, xwOBA, xERA, and whiff percentage.

Game 4: Sunday, 1:10 ET

Spenser Watkins (2-1, 3.10 ERA) vs. Tyler Alexander (1-1, 4.80 ERA)

Spenser Watkins’ feel-good story hit a minor snag last time out, when he allowed four runs to the Marlins in a start where his command looked a touch off all night. To Watkins’ credit, the soft-throwing righty remained unflappable, making pitches when he needed to to limit the damage. Against the Tigers Watkins will look to keep mixing his new cutter and changeup, pitchers that have been effective for him so far.

Detroit is starting another fairly inexperienced pitcher in Game 4, the lefty Tyler Alexander, who’s been moderately effective in 29 appearances this season. He’s only started five times this season, but injuries have thrust him into the rotation for now. Alexander’s calling card is command: he walks just 2.1 batters a game, to go with an impressive 32.9% chase rate.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    4 (The Orioles sweep)
    (5 votes)
  • 22%
    3
    (44 votes)
  • 57%
    2
    (111 votes)
  • 14%
    1
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    0 (The Orioles are swept)
    (5 votes)
192 votes total Vote Now