The Detroit Tigers came into Friday night’s tilt with the Baltimore Orioles riding high on a three-game winning streak with a matchup on the mound that was quite favorable for them. Unfortunately, Detroit’s offense went limp and a late rally failed as a deep drive by Miguel Cabrera that could have been a grand slam instead fell short — just like the Tigers — for a sac fly and ultimately a 4-3 loss at Comerica Park.
The good guys get another chance to start a new winning streak on Saturday in the third of a four-game weekend series in the D behind one of their top pitching prospects. However, they will have to go through one of the best the American League East Division cellar-dwellers have to offer on the mound if they want to return to their winning ways. Let us take a look at what the boys in the Olde English D are up against this evening.
Detroit Tigers (50-56) vs. Baltimore Orioles (36-66)
Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Site: Camden Chat
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Matt Manning (2-3, 6.00 ERA) vs. LHP John Means (4-3, 2.94 ERA)
Game 107 Pitching Matchup
Matt Manning is still trying to find his footing in his debut campaign this summer, having put together a few solid performances while also taking a beating at times as well. His ghastly ERA is a bit over-inflated thanks to an outing against the Cleveland Indians on June 28 in which he gave up nine earned runs in 3 2⁄3 innings pitched including a pair of home runs — easily the nadir of his nascent major league career.
Since that game, the 23-year-old fireballer has shown improvement save for his most recent outing. In his first three starts of July, the right-hander threw 13 2⁄3 innings to the tune of a 3.29 ERA, allowing 13 hits and six walks while striking out seven with an average of 7 pitches per. Mind you, his 2 2⁄3 inning appearance against the Chicago White Sox on July 4 skews the numbers a bit, but the youngster began to show signs of refinement over that stretch. Unfortunately, his most recent outing against the Minnesota Twins saw some regression, as Manning took the loss after surrendering four runs in five innings on five hits and a walk while striking out four and allowing a dinger. Hopefully, the former first-round pick can right the ship on Saturday.
Manning will need to bring his best because that is exactly what Orioles starter John Means is on his pitching staff. The 28-year-old is having a spectacular season so far, posting an impressive of 2.94 and a jaw-dropping 0.87 WHIP — the guy just does not allow baserunners. On the other hand, his 4.56 FIP suggests that he has been pretty lucky so far this season, though a microscopic WHIP like his makes it easy to create your own luck. However, he has given up 14 home runs in 82 2⁄3 innings so he is not completely impervious to opposing offenses, but it is hard to rack up the runs with so few runners on base.
The southpaw gets the job done with a four-pitch arsenal headlined by a 93 mph fastball that gets used a perfect half of the time, followed by his 83 mph changeup that sees 30 percent usage, 78 mph curveball at 13 percent and an 86 mph slider at 8 percent usage. In comparison to his peers, Means excels in his walk rate (96th percentile), average exit velocity (90th percentile), fastball spin (83rd percentile) and hard-hit percentage (69th percentile) according to Baseball Savant. As expected with his home run blemish, he ranks pretty low in maximum exit velocity, expected slugging percentage and barrels percentage.
Key Matchup: Manning vs. Means
Baltimore’s starter presents as the kind of pitcher that will give the Tigers fits, especially due to his baserunner suppression. Detroit is not exactly a home run-hitting team, currently sitting 18th in the majors in total dingers swatted, so Means’ Achilles heel probably will not help the Motor City Kitties too much. And as far as Manning is concerned, it is imperative that he has a solid performance today reminiscent of his middle two starts in July. The best-case scenario seems to be that this game turns into a pitcher’s duel, but we all know baseball too well to fall for that trap — this could just as easily break out for another footballesque final score.