Game 70 Preview: Orioles at Tigers

Patrick Smith

Chris Tillman and Rick Porcello face off in the rubber match of this three game series between the Tigers and Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles (41-31) at Detroit Tigers (39-30)

Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Camden Chat

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Chris Tillman (7-2, 3.61 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (4-3, 4.37 ERA)

Like Max Scherzer, something clicked with Tillman in 2012 and he has been unstoppable ever since. In the last two years -- which is really one calendar year, considering he made his 2012 debut on July 4th -- Tillman is 16-5 with a 3.26 ERA and 1.158 WHIP. His 4.56 FIP during that span isn't spectacular, but is largely due to the fact that he has allowed 28 home runs in 168 1/3 innings. He has been slightly more homer prone this season, allowing 1.75 per nine innings. He has been particularly volatile at Camden Yards, where he has allowed 12 of his 16 home runs this year.

When he gets out of Baltimore, he has been even better. In six road starts, he is 5-0 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.152 WHIP, and 3.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 3.38 FIP and 3.41 xFIP on the road indicate that he may be overperforming a bit, but I can't find a stat that jumps out as unsustainable. He strikes out almost two more batters per nine innings on the road compared to home. That last trend doesn't make much sense, but it seems to be working for him.

Tillman's success rests primarily on the effectiveness of his fastball. He uses it 60% of the time and only throws 92-93, but he locates it well. Opposing hitters are only hitting .249 with a .265 BABIP on the fastball, but slugging .470 this season thanks to 10 home runs. As I pointed out above, this is largely due to the cozy confines of Camden Yards. In other parks, those home runs turn into weak fly balls (think a Jeremy Guthrie-level of frustration). Tillman also throws a curveball, changeup, and cutter/slider.

Porcello has been a mirror opposite of Tillman this season, with dominant numbers at home and a 56% ground ball rate. Granted, his road numbers took a big hit with That Game in L.A., but he still has a 1.16 WHIP and 2.98 xFIP on the road. He has only allowed one home run at Comerica Park this season, and is striking out 21.9% of the batters he faces. His strikeout rate jumps to a Scherzer-esque 28.9% against right-handed hitters, but the real key to his success is his improvement against lefties. Last season, they hit .325/.381/.503 off him. This year? .260/.299/.377.

Outlook

It's hard to make sense of today's matchup. Tillman is a stereotypical fly ball pitcher who should benefit from Comerica Park's large outfield. Meanwhile, even despite last night's poor offensive showing, the Tigers are scoring a whopping 5.59 runs per game at home this season. They are also slugging .455 as a team at Comerica Park. I mentioned Jeremy Guthrie's name above, much to the chagrin of any Orioles fans that wander over here, but I think the comparisons are legitimate. Guthrie dominated the Tigers this season by inducing a bunch of lazy fly balls and weak contact, and the Royals were able to scrape together enough runs to win. Can the Orioles do the same today? If Tillman can replicate Guthrie's success and keep this offense at bay for a second consecutive game -- not the easiest task in the CoPa -- I think they can.

Prediction

Prince Fielder ends his homer-less streak today.

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