Series: 2-0, Baltimore
Time/Place: 3:45 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Camden Chat
Media: TBS, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65 ERA) vs. LHP David Price (15-12, 3.26 ERA)
Orioles manager Buck Showalter tried to pull a fast one on the Tigers, announcing yesterday that Bud Norris would start Game 3 in place of right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. Will it pay off? Based on his two starts against the Tigers in the regular season, I wouldn't bet on it. The Tigers jumped all over Norris in his start at Comerica Park back on April 5th, scoring five runs on nine hits in just five innings. Torii Hunter was responsible for all of the damage in that contest, driving in five runs off Norris via a bases loaded double and a two-run home run. Nine of the 23 batters Norris faced in that game reached base.
If we fast forward to their meeting at Camden Yards on May 12th, we see that Norris allowed four runs, but also ate 7 2/3 innings in the process. This game was more of a grind for the Tigers, as they only scored two runs on four hits in the first seven innings. Ian Kinsler dealt the final blow in the eighth inning, hitting a two-run homer to stretch the Tigers' lead to 4-1.
These two starts were essentially a microcosm of Norris' entire season. He was excellent at home, allowing a 2.44 ERA and 3.44 FIP in 13 starts. On the road, his ERA and FIP jumped to 4.80 and 4.97, respectively. His strikeout-to-walk ratio splits were almost dead even -- and higher on the road, actually -- but he allowed an incredible 15 home runs in just 84 1/3 innings away from Camden Yards in 2014. He also allowed a lower ratio of ground balls to fly balls on the road, meaning more hitters were putting the ball in the air -- and ultimately, out of the stadium. This isn't a one year fluke, either. Norris's career home ERA is nearly two full runs lower than his road ERA.
David Price led all American League pitchers in strikeouts and innings pitched, and ranked among the top five qualified starters in strikeouts per nine innings, walks per nine innings, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and WHIP. In 77 innings since being traded to Detroit in July, he has pitched very well, but the numbers are not quite on par with his past couple of seasons. Although, his 2.44 FIP with the Tigers would be a career best.
Price is 6-2 with a 3.27 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP for his career in Comerica Park. He is 7-3 with a 2.82 ERA against the Orioles in his career, which was spent in same division until the big trade to Detroit. Current Orioles have fared much better against Price than they have against Verlander, with a combined line of .288/.320/.420.
Hitter to fear: Nelson Cruz is batting .368 .429 .684 1.113 against Price, with a pair of homers in 19 at bats
Hitter to fail: Adam Jones is hitting .255 with an OPS of just .583
It's do or die time for the Tigers. They will need David Price to pitch seven or eight innings to avoid that dumpster fire in the bullpen, and postponing the dreaded decision that Brad Ausmus must make. It should be Anibal Sanchez first, then Al Alburquerque, but if it gets to the ninth inning, the crowd will be chanting "let's go Joe". Expect a lively crowd at Comerica Park, with flags waving, hoping that this is not the end of the line for the Tigers in 2014. If Tiger hitters are patient, they can get to Norris early and keep the crowd in the game.
The Tigers have won three playoff games in a row before.
- Down 3 games to 1 to the St Louis Cardinals in 1968, they won the last three games, beating Bob Gibson in game seven to win the World Series.
- Three in a row over Kansas City in 1984, then games 3, 4, and 5 of the World Series against San Diego, to win the World Series.
- Four straight over the Yankees in the ALCS in 2012, sending the Tigers to the World Series.
- Three straight over the Yankees in the ALDS in 2006, then four straight over Oakland in the ALCS to send the Tigers to the World Series.
In baseball, all things are possible.
Tigers score early and Price shuts down the Orioles for at least seven innings, giving Brad's Bengals a chance to fight another day.