Chris Moore| BKD TV Insiders
For the first time since 1997 the Baltimore Orioles are in the playoffs as the American League East champs. They won the division handily and host the now four time defending American League Central champion Detroit Tigers. This assures to be the most interesting matchup of the divisional series’ because both teams have great strengths but also have great question marks.
For Baltimore, they got here on the strength of the long ball. The Orioles hit 211 homeruns this year including the MLB leader, Nelson Cruz, who belted 40 this year. As you all may know though, Chris Davis was suspended in mid-September for PED use and will miss the ALDS. Although he is not the guy he was last year, he still had 26 home runs and 72 RBI’s despite hitting just .196. The Orioles however have plenty of big bats and should be able to overcome the loss of a .196 hitter. The other strength in Baltimore is the bullpen. By far, the better of the two teams, the Orioles are led by there closer Zach Britton’s nasty sinker and trade deadline acquisition, Andrew Miller. The question for the Orioles is the starting pitching. It has been good this year but is it good enough for the postseason? Chris Tillman has certainly had a breakout year and gotten better down the stretch. Since the break he has a 6-1 record with a 2.33 ERA. After that the Orioles turn to Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez as their game two and game three starters. Those are two average to above average pitchers and that might not be good enough in the playoffs against these Tigers.
For the Tigers, two things stands out: starting pitching and Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers have the best rotation 1-4 left in the American League now that the A’s were bounced. They bring the last 3 Cy Young award winners to games one, two, and three. Max Scherzer hasn’t been as good as he was last year with an 18-5 record and a 3.15 ERA. Scherzer however is a bulldog and loves the big moment with a 3.42 postseason ERA. The rowdy Baltimore crowd will not phase him. Justin Verlander has struggled all year long, but you never count out this man. Last year, the same questions arrived about Verlander and was he the same guy and he went out and shut down the Oakland A’s twice including a game five pitchers’ duel with Sonny Gray. Also, following a cortisone shot, Justin Verlander has looked as good as he has all year in his last two starts. Right on cue. David Price is the final piece of the 1-2-3 punch in Detroit. Baltimore has a familiarity with him of course as he pitched in Tampa Bay for the first 6 1/2 seasons of his career. From 2011-2013 (11 starts) against the Orioles, Price was 3-2 with a 3.04 ERA. However in his lone start this year against them he went just 5 innings and gave up 3 earned runs. On offense, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez lead the show. They are two of the most feared hitters in the game and Miguel Cabrera was quoted saying “I just want the ring.” A focused Miguel Cabrera, is a scary Miguel Cabrera. The bullpen brings loads of questions in Detroit. They are 27th in bullpen ERA and 29th in bullpen WHIP this season. The man closing door, or often times not closing it, is Joe Nathan who has a 4.81 ERA this season. Can the Tigers hold late leads against the Orioles offense?
Prediction time is here. Something strange often happens in the playoffs. Homeruns disappear and that’s not a good thing for the Orioles. A team with a total of just 44 stolen bases brings great question to how else they will score if the home-runs don’t come. I don’t love the Tigers bullpen, but I don’t love the Orioles chances of hitting balls out of the park against this rotation. Especially in the two games in Detroit which is a pitchers park. The Orioles are a great story but the losses of Davis, Machado, and Wieters will hurt them. Tigers in four.
Byron K. Dixon- Orioles
Chris Moore- Tigers
Demarus Dye- Orioles
Darrien Coleman- Orioles