In playoff baseball, games can be decided on the arm of an ace.
The Detroit Tigers are holding the ace of spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs: they're carrying a loaded deck of cards. And with the days off, they only need of those cards.
With Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price already confirmed as the starters for games 1-3, Anibal Sanchez gets the axe to the bullpen where he'll certainly still play a role, though an unfamiliar one.
Unlike most of the people that go to Gold's Gym, the Tigers aren't just arms. With two time reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera headlining a daunting lineup, Detroit will score runs. A resurgent campaign from Victor Martinez, a breakout season from JD Martinez to go along with Cabrera's elite bat, they have three hitters hitting north of .300, combining for 80 home runs.
Orioles Injury Luck
Across the diamond there's the Baltimore Orioles, who's battle cry has been "next guy up" with numerous key cogs out for injuries and one suspension. Star third baseman Manny Machado had knee surgery in August and they've been without catcher Matt Wieters since June because of elbow surgery. They've also got superstar first baseman Chris Davis on the shelf due to an Adderall suspension, who would be eligible for reinstatement next round if the Birds progress past Detroit.
But, their potent lineup has more than enough threats. They boast MLB home run king Nelson Cruz, who smacked 40 bombs. Superstar center fielder Adam Jones had another great year in the middle of that lineup, batting .281 with 29 home runs and 96 runs batted in. Steve Pierce has filled in seamlessly in the absence of Davis, batting just under .300 with 21 home runs and 49 RBIs in just 338 at bats.
Don't sleep on Baltimore's rotation, either. They may not have the star names of Verlander, Price or Scherzer but the numbers this regular season are similar. The Orioles three scheduled starts actually have a better combined ERA than the Tigers trio 3.37 to 3.65. largely due to Verlanders enflamed 4.54 ERA.
But, one thing Baltimore's hurlers lack is a playoff track record. Despite having a down year, Verlander shines brightest when the lights are on him. Price has been there, done that in his time with Tampa Bay and Scherzer went through this last year.
The Tigers won't have an easy series, but they'll come out of this 3-2 winners, on their way to the American League Championship Series.