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Game 87 Preview: Tigers at Orioles

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Detroit Tigers (44-42) at Baltimore Orioles (45-40)

Time/Place: 7:00 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

SB Nation Blog: Camden Chat

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

Pitching Matchup: Doug Fister (2-6, 4.75 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (8-5, 3.47 ERA)

On June 22nd, Hammel pitched an 8 inning, 0 ER gem against the Washington Nationals to lower his ERA to 2.61. Since then, he has allowed 15 runs in 16 2/3 innings -- though most of those runs were allowed in one dud of a start against the Los Angeles Angels on June 27th. In his last couple starts, Hammel has cruised through the first 6 innings before getting roughed up in the 7th. This is likely due to a knee issue that has been nagging him throughout the year, one that will benefit from the rest of the All-Star Break. In starts where Hammel has pitched on more than 4 days rest, he is 5-0 with a 1.36 ERA.

Overall, Hammel's success is largely due to a huge jump in strikeout rate -- well, and not having to pitch at Coors Field anymore, humidors be damned. He is striking out 8.55 hitters per 9 innings this season, nearly double the 4.97 mark he posted last year and 9th overall in the American League among starters. He is 6-1 with a 1.49 ERA in games where he has 7 strikeouts or more.

Fister has allowed 20 earned runs in his last 20 1/3 innings. While he still is showing excellent command, walking 2.23 hitters per 9 innings, he may be throwing too many meatballs. Hitters are teeing off to the tune of a 25.1% line drive rate and a 17.0% HR/FB rate against him this season, way up from his 20.1% and 7.9% career marks, respectively.

Who are the 2012 Orioles?

If you thought the Tigers were slow, played horrible defense, and relied too much on the long ball, you would hate this team. The O's lead the majors with 75 errors, including 13 from our old friend Wilson Betemit and 12 from 2nd baseman Robert Andino. Brian Roberts returned for a short stint, but now is dealing with a hip injury. Nick Markakis, a career .282 hitter against the Tigers, came off the DL this week. They recently traded for Jim Thome, so be afraid. Adam Jones is having a stellar season, but June and July brought on some regression. Matt Wieters is still arguably the best catcher in baseball and the only one I would trade Avila for. As a team, they are 3rd in the AL with 107 home runs but 11th in runs scored with 351. They have 7 players with at least 7 home runs this year. They are riding the wave of late game success that the Tigers enjoyed in 2011; closer Jim Johnson is 26 for 27 in save opportunities this year (and vultured the win in his only blown save of the season).

Outlook

After a hot start to open the season, the O's are just 16-18 since June 1st. In this time frame, they have scored 121runs and allowed 165. Their starters have a 5.27 ERA, while the bullpen has returned to simply being very good. With a well-rested Hammel on the mound, expect the Tigers to put up zeros for the first half of the game, and possibly more. Fister needs to prey on the over-aggressiveness of the O's lineup -- they are 2nd in the AL with 690 strikeouts -- and keep the Tigers within striking distance for the later innings. If Hammel gets the ball to setup man Pedro Strop in the 8th with a lead, it's lights out from there.

Prediction

Jim Thome homers tonight.

Gameday Reading:

Adam Jones Vs. The Slider Down and Away - Camden Chat, Andrew Gibson
While this particular slider may not be the worst pitch that Jones faces, I'd still advise our pitchers to throw it to him if they are ahead in the count.

5 questions facing the Orioles at midseason - Baltimore Sun
If you think the Tigers have issues at this point, take solace in the fact that they are nowhere near as bad as what the Orioles have to deal with.

Tigers @ Orioles Series Preview - Walkoff Woodward, Cameron Scott
"Baltimore is a solid team. Their Pythagorean record suggests that they should be under .500, and I agree, but they’re much better than they have been in past seasons."