The Detroit Tigers (29-23, clinging by .5 to first in the AL Central, losing streak at 3) travel to Baltimore and Camden Yards to take on the Baltimore Orioles (30-24, third place AL East) in a three-game series. Local temperatures will be in the 90s for the day game Saturday, while rain may affect the Sunday game. Looks like it’s going to be a bit hot and sticky all weekend out there.
Torii Hunter will be giving the first couple games (son’s graduation) and possibly the whole series (elbow contusion after being HBP Wednesday) a miss. No shortage of outfielders to fill in, but it does leave the bench a man short. That can be a problem.
The difference in play, if not result, between the Rangers and the Pirates series is a positive one. Still, it’s abundantly clear that the Detroit Tigers aren’t yet ready to play with the big boys. Maybe that corner could have been turned last night. It wasn’t. Now they face a peer, another good team that can’t quite get it all together. It’s the Series Of The AL Also-Rans. If you think that’s harsh, you must be more satisfied with the prospect of finishing 7th best in the AL (playoffs or no) than I am.
The Baltimore Orioles at a glance are a hitting team; pitching is their weakness. Let’s pause for emphasis on HITTING; the Tigers have faced some good offensive teams, but have not yet seen the likes of this lineup. Five regulars are batting .290 or above, and six have 29 RBI or more. With Chris Davis in there, O’s fans are among the few in the AL who can say “Miguel who?” Not only that, but Baltimore is also speedy (very) and among the best defensive teams in the AL. The key will be jumping on that Achilles’ heel of theirs: Pitching. It won’t be easy. None of their opponents have decisively gotten the best of them (think Tigers v. Angels) thus far. But scoring at Camden Yards hasn’t been a problem for the Tigers the past couple seasons.
Gonzalez wasn’t so hot last July against the Tigers, but he’s had decent outings recently. Max has been quite superb of late, and strikeouts are really the least of it. Much more to Max than Ks these days. Last July, though, the Orioles had their way with Scherzer in Baltimore, and all those bad dudes are still there to face him again.
Hammel has been good the last couple starts. Against the Tigers last July, he left the game after only 3 innings, having allowed 2 runs and struck out 5. Hammel is the kind of pitcher Jhonny Peralta scorches. Justin is on the rebound from a rough stretch. Last July at Camden Yards, he was dominant in a shutout win. It is no exaggeration to say that Verlander owns current Orioles hitters. Not a lineup that will faze him in the slightest. Cause for worry?
Gausman is a rookie making his 3rd start who’s been hammered the first two. “Bad boding” for Sunday, as Billfer used to say? Rick is coming off a career start (with no decision) against the Pirates. Last August (at Comerica), Porcello had himself a good game and then blew it in the 7th (Chris Davis 3-run shot). Current Orioles find Rick quite hittable, but we can hope that this doesn’t necessarily mean scoreable-upon.
The Orioles bullpen isn’t terribly imposing, but then neither is that of the Tigers. Matching up either team’s big gun 3-4-5 hitters against bullpens, who’s got the edge? Tigers do. Might want to go light on the Coke, however. Even against lefties Davis and Markakis. O’s have barely seen Smyly and Downs. Often an advantage to the pitcher there.
In what I hope will become a personal tradition, the series-remainder game posts are going to be stat-heavy and comment-light.
Stay tuned or come back for the post-game.
Gimme dat lineup, Coleman-Man….
POST-GAME: Orioles 7, Tigers 5. Tough one to swallow, eh? Things got off to a sunny start in the 1st with Cabrera’s 2-run homer to right off Miguel Gonzalez. Max dodged the fearsome-first-inning O’s with a quiet 1st, but his 2nd was labored and slow. He escaped with only the sac fly allowed, but his troubles continued in the 3rd when Adam Jones connected on a 2-run HR to CF. 3-2 Baltimore. The Tigers followed the good script by coming back to tie it in the 4th on a kind of manufactured run. It started with a Martinez soft single, but through the good fortune of V-Mart getting erased on a fielder’s choice, Peralta came to be standing on 2B when clutch Garcia knocked one through the middle. Scherzer – once again (talk about a script) – righted himself after the rockiness and only grew stronger, retiring his last 16 batters in order and going double-digit with the strikeouts. 8 of those outs were flyballs, some deep, but an out is an out. The Tigers took the lead back in the 5th, loading the bases and threatening to break it open. Give Martinez credit for finding another gear and beating the DP relay to first, thus driving in the 4-3 run, but… but… Garcia gave the Tigers an insurance run and a 5-3 lead in the 6th inning, last one for starter Gonzalez, with a solo HR just over the RF scoreboard. That’s how you put the forth back in the back and forth game, right? Max and Avisail. Victory appeared within reach. Valverde came in for the save in the 9th. I wasn’t nervous. Nick Markakis homered to RF to lead it off. Garcia in RF almost took it away from him, got glove on it and everything. Mistimed leap? Give him an A+ for effort – it was that close. Oh well. 5-4 Tigers, none out and none on. I still wasn’t too nervous. But Valverde got himself in a heap of trouble, before almost getting himself miraculously out of it. Two popouts with men on 1st and 3rd – talk about dodging bullets. The sudden good fortune couldn’t stop now, could it? It could. Falling behind 2-0 on Chris Dickerson, Valverde’s 4th pitch wound up in the right-center field seats for the walkoff.
Kelly gave a rather stark illustration of his good and bad. Weak contact, weak outs, two with a runner in scoring position. But fine, difference-making defense in CF. J.J Hardy and Manny Machado made strong and smart plays on the left side, but Peralta was no slouch ranging far right to keep Jones’s 9th inning hit to the SS-3B hole an IF single rather than the double it might have been. Next play, the fleet Garcia in RF cut off the Davis smash to the gap to hold him to a single and keep Jones from scoring the tying run. Avila Watch: Still pathetic. V-Mart Watch: If you doubt that this guy is a liability who ought to be spending some of his time on the bench, see Innings 5 and 7. It’s been going on all season. Big Swinging Jhonny didn’t help the cause by going down in flames in the 5th, and he was right behind Victor again in the 7th inning rally kill. We can curse Valverde, but those 5th and 7th innings were also What Might Have Been so that we didn’t have to. We might not have had to see him at all. Give the Orioles pen some credit for keeping the walkoff in order. A mix and match of four arms over 3 innings kept Detroit off the board.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Chris Dickerson, Max Scherzer, Adam Jones
HONORABLE MENTION: Avisail Garcia, Miguel Cabrera, Nick Markakis, Andy Dirks
NOT SO GOOD: Jose Valverde