Game 119 Preview: Orioles at Tigers

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 11: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on August 11, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

Baltimore Orioles (64-54) at Detroit Tigers (63-55)

Time/Place: 7:00 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation Blog: Camden Chat

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Tommy Hunter (4-7, 5.54 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (12-7, 2.46 ERA)

This is just unfair. Hunter, 26, is a former sandwich round (compensatory pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds) draft choice who hasn't exactly lived up to expectations. He was fairly 'meh' for 3+ seasons as a member of the Texas Rangers before being shipped over to the Orioles in the deal for reliever Koji Uehara last July. Hunter's numbers have taken a turn for the worse since joining the O's, but he is still on pace to set a career high in innings pitched this year.

Hunter's struggles stem largely from his propensity to give up home runs. His HR/FB rate is 20.1%, leaving his xFIP at a respectable 4.42. In this sense -- and only this sense -- Hunter is a poor man's Max Scherzer. Hunter's K rate is a measly 4.98 per 9 innings, but he doesn't walk anyone either -- just 1.69 per 9 innings. With how the Tigers have swung the bats at home lately, Hunter could be in for a long -- or short, depending on how you look at it -- evening.

On the other end of the spectrum, the MVP is on the hill tonight. Last time he faced the Orioles, yours truly watched from the nosebleeds -- seriously, I was in the last row (nice breeze though) -- as Verlander decimated the Orioles' offense for 8 shutout innings. And yes, his curveball is just as nasty from a gazillion rows up as it is in splendiferous HD. Overall, Verlander is allowing more line drives than last season (23.2% up from 17.7%) but fewer home runs (0.72 per 9 innings down from 0.86) and is generally just as awesome. He has fewer wins than he had at this point last season, but when your offense has provided 3, 1, 7 (hey, a W!) and 1 run(s) in support in your last four starts, you would probably lose a couple games too. Fun fact: Verlander hasn't allowed more than 2 runs in a home start since giving up 3 earned runs to the Yankees in early June.

What's New?

Not much. The Orioles are still in 2nd place in the AL East despite allowing 41 more runs than they have scored this year.* This is largely due to a soft stretch in their schedule, but they did take 2 of 3 at Yankee Stadium and are currently trying to sweep the Red Sox at Fenway. The real story with the O's is the call-up and subsequent offensive explosion of 3rd baseman Manny Machado. Machado mostly played shortstop in the minors, but hasn't committed an error at 3rd yet. Oh, and he's hitting .304/.304/.826. It would be a lot of fun to see two 20 year old phenoms facing off this weekend, but instead we get to watch Brennan Boesch roam right field. Such excitement.

*Stat prior to last night's game vs. the Red Sox and I'll be too lazy to change it when I wake up at 6:30 am tomorrow.

Outlook

It's way too early to be looking at the Wild Card standings, but the Tigers and O's are in a dead heat for both spots, along with the Tampa Bay Rays. With both Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels looming, these games become more important. I'm still confident that the Tigers will catch the Chicago White Sox and win the AL Central, but beating other playoff contenders won't hurt along the way, especially at home.

Prediction

Another Friday night start, another special game from JV. Tigers win big.

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