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Game 104 Preview: Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles

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Tigers fans were hopeful they could trade for Kevin Gausman earlier this week. Instead, the Tigers will face him tonight in Baltimore.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers (50-53) at Baltimore Orioles (52-50)

Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

SB Nation blog: Camden Chat

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Anibal Sanchez (10-8, 4.61 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (1-2, 4.20 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Sanchez 21 136.2 7.97 2.83 1.45 1.25 4.37 3.88 1.1
Gausman 5 40.2 7.52 2.66 1.11 1.23 4.04 3.87 0.5

As interest in Yoenis Cespedes was building prior to Friday's MLB trade deadline, many Tigers fans were hopeful that the Orioles would somehow part with Kevin Gausman in their desperation to reach the postseason. The O's didn't budge, instead making a pair of low-key moves for Gerardo Parra and Junior Lake. The savvy deals not only upgraded the Orioles' outfield by a wide margin, but also allowed them to keep Gausman, a former top-20 prospect in baseball. The 24-year-old Gausman is no longer prospect-eligible, but still has huge upside. He has averaged 96.3 miles per hour with his fastball in 201 2/3 career major league innings, and also possesses a nasty splitter.

Unfortunately, the Orioles have shuttled Gausman all over the place in his early career, including this year. He made eight appearances out of the bullpen in the first month of the season before landing on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. After a month off, his next five appearances all came in different uniforms. He made two starts with the Orioles in July before getting sent down to Triple-A for two outings, then was recently recalled again after the All-Star break. In all, Gausman's last 11 pitching appearances have come at four different levels, and he has not made three consecutive appearances for one team since April.

Anibal Sanchez's oddball season continued in his last start, when he allowed yet another home run to baseball's newest Tigers killer: Tampa Bay Rays catcher Curt Casali. The home run was Sanchez's 22nd allowed of the season, the highest total of his career. Fifteen of the 22 homers have been solo shots, which speaks to how hard it can be to hit Sanchez. Despite a 4.61 ERA, Sanchez is still limiting opponents to a .246 batting average and .304 on-base percentage. He has been even better lately, allowing a .228 average, .293 on-base percentage, and 3.42 ERA in his last 11 starts. As you might expect, the Tigers are 8-3 in those games.

Hitter to fear: Gerardo Parra (.571/.625/.714 in 16 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Travis Snider (.125/.222/.250 in 9 plate appearances)

The Orioles' newest outfielder has had plenty of success against Sanchez in his career, collecting eight hits (including two doubles) in 14 at-bats. He should be a big addition, because the rest of the O's lineup has not had much success against Sanchez in the past. Sanchez has limited the Orioles to a .699 OPS and 3.86 ERA in three career starts, including a 7-3 win on July 17. Sanchez is allowing a heavy reverse platoon split this season, so Orioles manager Buck Showalter may opt for a few more right-handed batters than usual.

Outlook

I may just start copying and pasting the sentence "The Tigers could use a lengthy start tonight because their bullpen is taxed" in every game preview from now on. Short outings from Alfredo Simon and Buck Farmer have caused Tigers relievers to eat seven innings over the first two games of this series many of which were high-stress in nature. Sanchez is a better bet to save the bullpen than Daniel Norris tomorrow, but he hasn't been very efficient lately. In his last four outings, he is averaging six innings while throwing 107 pitches per start.

Prediction

Sanchez and Gausman duel to a draw, and the Tigers' bullpen drama continues.

★★★

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