BALTIMORE — The Detroit Tigers’ starting pitchers in the first three games of the AL Division Series have a combined 329 wins, three Cy Young Awards and 35 games of postseason experience.
Baltimore’s starters carry less impressive credentials, yet they don’t necessarily have to outpitch their Detroit counterparts for the Orioles to advance.
All they have to do is keep it close, then hand the baseball over to one of the best bullpens in major leagues.
Detroit (90-72) didn’t win as many games as the Orioles (96-66), who ran away with the AL East title to earn home-field advantage in the best-of-five series that begins Thursday. But the AL Central-champion Tigers have been installed as a slight favorite — mainly because of their formidable starting rotation.
Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA) starts on Thursday, followed by Justin Verlander (15-12, 4.54) and David Price (15-12, 3.26). That also happens to be a list of the last three AL Cy Young winners.
“I think we all know what it looks like on paper,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday. “But there’s a lot of things that look a certain way on paper for us that we were able to overcome.”
Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA) will make his first foray into the postseason in the opener. Although Showalter declined the announced his starters for Friday and Sunday, they will likely be Wei-Yin Chen (16-6, 3.54) and Miguel Gonzalez (10-9, 3.23), each of whom has pitched in exactly one playoff game.
But if a game is close in the seventh inning, the Orioles like their chances.
“We’ve got a good bullpen, we have a good starting staff,” said closer Zach Britton, who finished with 37 saves. “Anytime there’s a close game, we’re confident we can pull it out, and we’ve done that a lot this year.”
Britton (1.65 ERA) usually works the ninth inning. Andrew Miller (1.35 ERA in 23 games with Baltimore) or Darren O’Day (1.70) take care of the eighth, following hard-throwing Tommy Hunter.
Royals at Angels
Trout makes playoff debut: In Anaheim, Calif., when Mike Trout asked Albert Pujols for advice on his playoff debut, the veteran slugger with two rings told baseball’s best young player to keep the same swing that finally got the Los Angeles Angels back into the October spotlight.
After nearly three full years of electrifying play, Trout reaches the milestone he craves most Thursday night when he runs out to center field at the Big A for the Angels’ AL Division Series opener.
The Angels are facing the Kansas City Royals, who must concoct a quick encore to their incredible 12-inning comeback victory in the wild-card game. Manager Ned Yost thinks his club will respond.
Angels ace Jered Weaver starts against good friend Jason Vargas, a former LSU standout, who pitched for Los Angeles last year.