Verlander & Tigers Open Home Set With Orioles
By: Willie Bee
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Don Best sports analyst Kenny White often mentions how stats tend to level out from one season to the next and records find their way to middle ground over the long haul. That has certainly been the case for the last 12 years when the Detroit Tigers take on the Baltimore Orioles.
The American League playoff contenders open a series at Comerica Park on Friday that is just as significant to the standings as the Rays-Angels confrontation that got underway in Anaheim on Thursday. Detroit opened as a hefty $2.50 favorite with an 8-run total.
One look at those odds should bring bettors to the quick conclusion that Justin Verlander is on the mound for the Tigers, and he is. Baltimore counters with Tommy Hunter in the 7:05 p.m. (ET) start.
Detroit took Thursday off after coming off a road trip that saw the Tigers salvage a 3-3 split with wins in the final two games at Minnesota. Jim Leyland's lads were sitting two games back of the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, and a half-game behind the Rays for the second AL wild card when play opened on Thursday. This series with the O's begins a 9-game homestand for the Tigers who will see the Blue Jays and Angels follow Baltimore into town.
Baltimore held the top wild card slot as the Orioles were finishing a series with the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. Boston was a $1.30 favorite in that series finale which found the Orioles riding a 3-game win streak.
Verlander's last four starts have resulted in three Detroit losses, all of which came on the road (in Cleveland, Boston and Texas). The Tigers combined to score just five runs in the three setbacks, with Verlander's only victory in that span coming in an outstanding performance vs. the Yankees about 10 days ago. The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner tossed eight innings while allowing only two unearned runs and striking out a season-high 14.
He shut out the Orioles over eight innings in Baltimore just after the all-star break in a 5-0 win as a 170 favorite. The victory improved his career record vs. the O's to 7-0 to go with a sparkling 2.71 ERA.
Hunter is also unbeaten in his career when facing Detroit, winning both of his assignments and limiting the Tigers to just one run in 14 innings (0.64 ERA). Interspersed with his 18 starts this season are three relief appearances, and like Verlander has seen his team drop three of his most recent four starts.
His primary problem has always been keeping hitters from taking him deep, and that is again true for Hunter this year with 27 long balls served up in 112 innings. Since joining the Orioles in 2011, Hunter has allowed 38 home runs while walking only 31 in a little more than 180 frames, a stat you won't see often from a big league pitcher.
Getting back to how this has been a level series for a while, this will be the 93rd meeting in the new millennium and it's 46-46 overall in the previous 92. That includes a 25-25 record at Camden Yards and 21-21 mark at Comerica Park. Runs scored in those 92 games? Baltimore has the 462-460 edge. Fittingly, the teams split the four in Detroit a year ago, three of them 1-run affairs and three of the four going 'over.'
While the O's and Tigers meet in Detroit, the two cities are also opposing each other on the NFL front back in Baltimore where the Ravens collide with the Lions. Click here to see Don Best's preview of that preseason contest.