Orioles-Tigers Preview

This has been such a remarkable regular season for Justin

Verlander, it’s almost sad to see it come to a close.

The only ones who don’t feel that way are his opponents.

In his final tune-up before the playoffs, Verlander will try to

become the majors’ first 25-game winner in over two decades when he

faces the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night at Comerica Park.

Almost assured of the Cy Young Award and a candidate for AL MVP,

Verlander (24-5, 2.29 ERA) will open the division series Friday in

the Tigers’ first playoff appearance since 2006. A win over the

Orioles would make him baseball’s first 25-game winner since Bob

Welch went 27-6 for Oakland in 1990.

Verlander could also lock up the Triple Crown and become the

first AL pitcher to lead the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts

since Johan Santana in 2006. He has already clinched wins and

strikeouts and leads Jered Weaver in ERA.

“I said earlier this year, if you expect greatness, greatness

shouldn’t surprise you,” Verlander told the Tigers’ official

website. “And therefore, all the other stuff that comes with that

is easy to block out. And I’ve just kind of always had that

personality where I’m able to focus primarily on the task at hand

and not worry about everything else surrounding it.”

The Detroit ace dominated yet another opponent Sunday to win his

12th straight start, limiting Oakland to three hits over eight

innings in a 3-0 victory.

“He prepares as hard as anybody and can translate it into

action. His attention to detail is unbelievable,” catcher Alex

Avila said. “He’s been able to do exactly what he wants to do and

can make changes if he has to.”

No AL pitcher has won 13 consecutive starts since Ellis Kinder

of the Boston Red Sox in 1949. Kinder’s final win during his run

came against the Yankees on Sept. 24, exactly 62 years prior to

Verlander’s attempt.

Verlander continued his mastery of the Orioles with an

eight-inning, nine-strikeout performance in a 7-3 win at Camden

Yards on April 6. He is 6-0 with a 2.64 ERA in eight starts versus

Baltimore.

The Tigers (91-66) got a solid start from Rick Porcello and a

homer from Miguel Cabrera before Victor Martinez delivered a

run-scoring double in the 11th inning to seal a 4-3 victory over

the Orioles on Friday.

Cabrera is batting .407 with three homers and eight RBIs in

eight games against Baltimore this season.

Detroit kept pace with Texas in the race for the No. 2 seed in

the playoffs – and home-field advantage in the first round. The

Tigers hold the tiebreaker because they beat the Rangers 6-3 in the

season series.

“This was a good tonic for us and a good win,” manager Jim

Leyland said. “We needed to get this one, obviously, because Texas

was winning. We wanted it, and we got it.”

J.J. Hardy had three hits and two runs for the Orioles (66-91),

who had a three-game win streak snapped and lost for only the third

time in 11 contests.

Seemingly headed for 20 losses at one point, Baltimore scheduled

starter Jeremy Guthrie (9-17, 4.28) has been much better lately. He

won his third straight start, allowing four runs and 10 hits over

six innings of a 6-5 victory in the first game of a doubleheader at

Boston on Monday.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 3.08 ERA in his past five starts

after going 0-2 with a 7.32 ERA in his previous three.

Guthrie usually pitches well against the Tigers but was tagged

for six runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings during a 6-5 home loss

Aug. 13. He is 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA lifetime at Comerica Park.

Magglio Ordonez is 7 for 13 with a homer and three doubles

against Guthrie.