There’s a retro feeling (circa early 1970s) in the air in Baltimore. The Orioles won five of the first six AL East titles from 1969-74 with Detroit winning the other. The two long-time AL East rivals — prior to realignment in 1994 — have never met in the playoffs. The Tigers are veterans of the postseason having won 17 postseason games over the past three years and appeared in the last three ALCS, winning in 2012. Baltimore won the wild card game two years ago and lost to the Yankees in the ALDS.
Baltimore can bash and score runs in bunches. Keeping the ball in the park will be a key for Detroit pitching. The Orioles also have a reliable bullpen with Zach Britton collecting 37 saves in his first season as a closer. Setup men Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter and lefty specialist Andrew Miller can shorten the game and rarely cough up leads.
The Tigers have playoff experience and a huge advantage in one critical area — starting pitching. In the playoffs, it’s crucial that teams be able to run out a starting pitcher with the ability to shut down most any lineup. With the past three AL Cy Young winners starting the first three games, the Tigers can do that. Baltimore will need superhuman efforts from starting pitchers to keep the O’s in games and get to the bullpen. Navigating the Tigers’ lineup begins and ends with Miguel Cabrera. In addition to being one of the top hitters on the planet, he has hit Baltimore pitching especially well over a short sample.
Baltimore’s Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy have no home runs and only eight RBIs in a combined 127 at-bats off of David Price…No current Tigers players have ever driven in a run off of Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen…
Nelson Cruz has playoff experience and isn’t afraid of the big stage. In his career, he has hit .333 in 84 at-bats off of Detroit’s big three starters with eight homers and 18 RBIs. That projects to 52 bombs and 118 ribbies over 550 ABs…Baltimore starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez had a clunker of a start at Detroit in his first outing this season. After his second start, his ERA checked in at 2.83. Over the past three months, it has dropped to 2.09…Bud Norris may be a forgotten man in the Orioles’ rotation, but Baltimore has won his last six starts and nine of his last 10. Norris threw seven shutout innings in a 1-0 loss in the start prior to that streak…Joakim Soria has been the Tigers’ most effective reliever, but manager Brad Ausmus continues to use Joba Chamberlain as his setup man and Joe Nathan as the closer.
Prediction: Tigers in 4