Though the Tigers trail the Cleveland Indians by four games in the AL Central prior to Tuesday’s games, they're only half a game away from securing a wild card spot. The Orioles already hold one of those spots, so this series could have an immediate impact on which one of these teams makes the postseason and which one doesn’t. The return of outfielder J.D. Martinez and the steady, veteran play of Victor Martinez as well as Miguel Cabrera have steered this team towards yet another postseason berth. Despite the loss of Max Scherzer, the Tigers’ rotation has performed exceptionally well. Justin Verlander is back to his ace form, and rookie Michael Fulmer has been a surprisingly huge success.
The Orioles are just barely in the postseason currently, but they'll have to battle it out with Detroit to keep that position. At 76-62, they trail the Red Sox by half a game and the AL East-leading Blue Jays by one game. Though one game doesn’t sound like a lot, the AL East is one of the most competitive divisions in the majors, with the top spot constantly switching teams. Four of the five teams in the division have 70+ wins. The Orioles have one of the best offenses in the MLB, with the likes of Manny Machado, Chris “Crush” Davis, and Mark Trumbo, but their pitching has been lacking this year. The return of ace Chris Tillman should help, but other starters like Kevin Gausman, Yovani Gallardo, and the newly-acquired Wade Miley are going to have to step up if Baltimore wants to hold onto their postseason position.
Justin Verlander will make the start for the Tigers on Sunday, and he’ll look to continue his fantastic 2016 campaign. This year, Verlander has amassed a stellar 3.28 ERA, 14-7 record, and 208 strikeouts. Not only that, but he has only lost in two of his last 14 starts, during which he went 7-2. Verlander has only faced Baltimore once this season, when he allowed only one run on four hits in eight innings on the road, but still took the loss in a 1-0 Orioles victory. He’ll look for revenge on Sunday against a powerful Baltimore lineup, though he’ll be in front of his home crowd this time around.
For the Orioles, their ace will also be manning the mound. Chris Tillman will make his first start since August 20, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares on the road in a tough matchup. Tillman faced the Tigers at home in the same game referenced above, so this isn’t the first time he and Verlander have gone head-to-head. Tillman threw seven innings of shutout ball against Detroit in that start, giving up only five hits and striking out seven. He actually has a better road ERA than he does at home - 3.18 compared to 4.34 - so this atmosphere should suit him just fine.
- Sports.net’s top tip: The Tigers are the hotter team here and Verlander has been untouchable lately. Detroit beats Baltimore 6-2.