Game 68 Preview: Orioles at Tigers

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Arrieta will make a spot start for the Orioles while Max Scherzer tries to get the win he deserved last time he faced Baltimore as the O's and Tigers start a three game series at Comerica Park.

Baltimore Orioles (40-30) at Detroit Tigers (38-29)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Camden Chat

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Jake Arrieta (1-1, 6.63 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (9-0, 3.19 ERA)

Jason Hammel was originally scheduled to start tonight for the Orioles, but he has been pushed back due to illness. He may or may not start tomorrow night, but in his place tonight is right-hander Jake Arrieta. Arrieta started the season in the Orioles' rotation, but after allowing 14 earned runs in his first 19 innings, he was optioned to Triple-A. When optioned, he opened up about some anxiety issues that he has been having on the mound. Unfortunately for him, a trip back to the minors doesn't seemed to have helped much. In seven appearances (six starts) for Triple-A Norfolk, he is 3-3 with a 5.50 ERA and 3.84 FIP.

Arrieta struggled mightily with his command when pitching for the O's in April, walking 16 batters in just 19 innings. He seems to have gotten this under control in the minors, lowering his walk rate to 2.50 batters per nine innings. The command issues are nothing new for him, though. He has walked four batters per nine innings during his major league career. Last season's rate of 2.75 batters per nine innings was a career low at any professional level, but it didn't stop him from posting a 6.20 ERA and 4.05 FIP in 114 2/3 innings.

He relies primarily on a four-seamer/two-seamer mix, using his fastball roughly 60% of the time throughout his career. He was using his fastballs -- the two-seamer, in particular -- more often early this season, but that is probably due to him falling behind hitters so frequently. He throws a slider to righties and a changeup to lefties, the latter of which is consistently one of his worst pitches according to PitchFX's pitch values. His changeup has been -10.5 runs below average since the start of 2010, and is probably a reason why lefties have hit .284/.370/.494 against him during his career. He also throws a curveball that he likes to use when ahead in the count, but will also use at the start of an at-bat to keep hitters off balance.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Max Scherzer was dominant in his last start. We're starting to get very spoiled with Max, but here's an indication of how good he has been in 2013: he hasn't allowed more than five hits in a start since April 29th, and hasn't allowed more than seven hits in a start this season. In fact, you have to go back to May 15th to find a start where he allowed five hits. In the five starts since that day -- the Tigers' lone loss to the Houston Astros this season, if you're curious -- Max is 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 2.51 FIP. He has nearly twice as many strikeouts (106) as hits allowed (57) this season, and his 0.87 WHIP leads the majors among starting pitchers.

Properly introducing the 2013 Orioles

Since I was in Peru when the Tigers and Orioles faced off earlier this year, here's a quick primer on what the O's have done in 2013 thus far. They currently sit second in the AL East, just 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox after taking three of four from the Sox at Camden Yards last weekend. You already know about what Chris Davis is doing at the plate this season, and I've got bad news: he's heating up again. After struggling for a brief period -- which included the last time these two teams faced off, minus that awful hanging changeup from Rick Porcello -- Davis is hitting .348/.441/.826 with three homers in his last six games. Adam Jones has quietly put together another All-Star worthy campaign, hitting .303/.327/.517 with 14 home runs.

In my Orioles preview before the season, I said that this might be a rough year at the plate for Manny Machado. I could not have been more wrong. Machado has permanently wedged himself into the "best young player in baseball" debate by hitting .327/.358/.495 with 32 doubles so far this season. He's on pace to break Earl Webb's single season record of 67 doubles, and he doesn't even turn 21 until July 6th. If the Tigers didn't already have a pretty special third baseman themselves, it would be very easy to become envious of the young star. Machado's glove is miles better than Miguel Cabrera's though, as he has already been worth +16 defensive runs saved this season.

The O's are heavily reliant on the home run ball, hitting a major league leading 92 dingers in 70 games this season. They are second in the AL in runs scored with 341, but have played three more games than the Tigers, who are third with 336. Their pitching has been suspect, allowing 325 runs on the season, which is tied for second most in the AL behind the Astros. We saw 2012 first round pick Kevin Gausman during the last series, but he was sent down to the minors as part of some roster shuffling to rest a depleted bullpen late last week. Their bullpen has been much better over the past couple weeks, but they will need more innings from the starters as the season goes on.

Outlook

Scherzer dominated the O's in his last start, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks in eight innings while striking out 10 batters. I'm a little fuzzy on what happened after that, but I'm fairly certain it involved pain, suffering, and a potato famine of some sort, so we won't go into specifics. Meanwhile, Arrieta hasn't faced the Tigers since April 5th, 2011 when he held the Tigers to one run in six innings. Given his command issues and the Tigers' winning ways at Comerica Park, I'm not sure he'll be able to repeat that performance.

Prediction

The O's knock out Max earlier than last time they faced off, but the Tigers offense carries them to a win.

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