Not to make this game more of a big deal than it is, but it is a very big deal. The Tigers need to find a way to get past the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card race and there is no time like the present. This is just the second matchup between the two teams this year, with noted Australian wizard Warwick Saupold getting the only win in Baltimore. Michael Fulmer will be without that lockdown presence in the middle innings this time around, or really any bullpen at all save Bruce Rondon.
Buckle up, kids, because September baseball is coming at you hard tonight.
Baltimore Orioles (76-63) at Detroit Tigers (75-64)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Camden Chat
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: Kevin Gausman (7-10, 3.58 ERA) vs. Michael Fulmer (10-6, 2.77 ERA)
Kevin Gausman seems like he has been the next big thing for ages, and he kind of has. This will be the 68th start of his MLB career already, and the tall righty has a career ERA of 3.99. Gausman has really come into his own in 2016 during his age-25 season; his 17.6 K-BB% is rock solid and he is on pace to top 160 innings for the first time. If there is one area that Gausman subpar at, it is home run prevention, but are you really going to blame a dude for having a 1.40 HR/9 at Camden? Didn’t think so.
Gausman and Fulmer actually faced off in May, the aforementioned Saupold victory. Gausman was rocked for four runs on ten hits in five innings, with Ian Kinsler taking him deep and Steven Moya hitting a rocket of a triple. Fulmer was not much better, but he was able to get it into a bullpen duel, which the Tigers won. I would not advise Detroit taking that route tonight.
Hitter to fear: Manny Machado (.307/.358/.564 this season)
Hitter to fail: J.J. Hardy (.207/.253/.391 over the last 30 days)
Manny Machado rules. He hit a dinger off of Fulmer in May and is an all-around amazing baseball player. J.J. Hardy is a little less awesome at the plate, but his defense is once again being rated as outstanding. The 34-year-old is going to be a 30 WAR player and his career wRC+ is 91. That’s impressive.
Gone are the days where a Fulmer start has the feel of an automatic win. He’s lost four of his last five decisions and his strikeout rate continues to tumble. Detroit needs him to get back on track in the stretch run, starting with a pivotal game tonight.
Speaking of players that need to get back on track, let’s hope Victor Martinez is feeling better. He’s been mired in an awful slump for the last few weeks and that slide into second base in Chicago was gruesome. As awesome as Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera have been in single-handedly keeping the offense afloat, someone else needs to contribute tonight against Gausman, because heaven knows if it gets to O’Day and Britton things will get ugly.
Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo strike out three times, and also each hit a ball 475 feet.