Detroit Tigers (50-54) at Baltimore Orioles (53-50)
Time/Place: 1:35 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards
SB Nation blog: Camden Chat
Pitching Matchup: LHP Daniel Norris vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (8-6, 3.73 ERA)
Ubaldo Jimenez was excellent in the first half of the season, holding opponents to a 2.81 ERA and 3.22 FIP in 17 starts. The Orioles were just 9-8 in those games, but Jimenez's 7-4 record tells a bit more of the story. In the eight Jimenez starts they lost, the Orioles never scored more than three runs (and only did that once). With two more years remaining on his contract, it was a very encouraging sign for O's fans, as Jimenez was coming off a brutal 2014 season.
Things have not gone so well lately, though. Jimenez struggled in July, allowing seven runs in back-to-back starts, one against these same Tigers. He struck out 19 batters and walked 11, resulting in a 6.12 FIP and 4.54 xFIP for the month. He had three separate starts with three walks, something he only did four times total during the first three months of the season. His strikeout rate also dipped, and he allowed six home runs in 26 innings.
While this could just be a blip on the radar, Jimenez's unorthodox mechanics and previous history of being a very streaky pitcher point towards another downturn in production. He demonstrated these same Jekyll-and-Hyde tendencies in 2013, when he allowed a 4.56 ERA and 4.50 FIP in the first half, but got his mechanics together and stifled opponents to a 1.82 ERA and 2.17 FIP after the All-Star break.
Opposing Jimenez will be Daniel Norris a lefthander with mechanical issues of his own. There were major concerns over his pitching delivery shortly after he was drafted, but recent scouting reports (and a dynamite 2014 season) suggest that he has made major strides in correcting those flaws. He has gotten somewhat out of whack again in 2015, allowing 4.18 walks per nine innings across Triple-A and the major leagues. Norris has allowed a reverse platoon split this year, allowing lefthanders to reach base at a .413 clip.
Tigers hitter to fear: Victor Martinez (.333/.333/.815 in 30 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Rajai Davis (.000/.000/.000 in 5 plate appearances)
Jimenez has struggled in his career against the Tigers, losing 10 of his 18 starts with a 5.33 ERA. The Tigers' active roster has an .851 OPS against him in 117 plate appearances, and Jimenez has allowed a .275 batting average and .347 on-base percentage to all Tigers hitters. The Tigers got to Jimenez two weeks ago, scoring seven runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Victor Martinez has shown a surprising amount of power against Jimenez in 30 career matchups, homering four times. Alex Avila has reached base 14 times in 33 plate appearances, a .424 on-base percentage. Rajai Davis, who will bat ninth today, is 0-for-5 against Jimenez.
It has been just over four years to the day since such a highly-regarded pitching prospect made his Tigers debut. Righthander Jacob Turner, a consensus top-30 prospect at the time, allowed two runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Angels. Norris may not demonstrate the same nerves that Turner did -- remember the five stolen bases he allowed? -- but the fanbase probably is. Norris has drawn a tough assignment, though; the Orioles have the seventh-highest home OPS in baseball, at .775.
Norris struggles early on and makes it through five innings as the Orioles take three of four.
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