On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every postseason series during the 2014 season.
The Teams: The Tigers looked like a dominant team early, fell off and then held on to top the upstart Royals for the AL Central crown. In the meantime, they made a mega deal to acquire ace pitcher David Price to add to their stable of aces. As far as starting pitching goes, it doesn't get any better than Detroit. The Orioles ran away with the AL East behind a whole truckload of home runs, led by MLB-leading Nelson Cruz.
Past 2014 Meetings: The Tigers dominated the season series, winning five of six games against Baltimore.
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Pitching Matchups: Thursday — Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34); Friday — David Price (15-12, 3.26) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (16-6, 3.54); Sunday — Justin Verlander (15-12, 4.54) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (10-9, 3.23); Monday* — Rick Porcello (15-13, 3.43) vs. Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65); Thursday* — Scherzer vs. Tillman.
What's Hot: The Tigers' veterans have made a huge impact at the plate over the past month — Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter — all hitting well over .300 in that time, led by Cabrera's six home runs in that time. Scherzer has been the Tigers' best starter over the last month, as the reigning AL Cy Young winner, has posted a 2.48 ERA in his last five starts. After struggling through much of the season, closer Joe Nathan has converted seven of his last eight opportunities and has posted a 3.00 ERA in the last month.
Former Ranger Nelson Cruz has unexpectedly had a huge season in which he led all of baseball in home runs. Over the past month, Cruz is hitting .353 with eight doubles, four homers and even two triples to go with his team-best 18 RBIs over that 25-game span. Adam Jones leads the Orioles with five homers over that same span. Over his last five starts, Gonzalez has posted a 1.69 ERA in his past 32 innings of work.
What's Not: If things go really well or really poorly for the Tigers, Rick Porcello might not even get a start, and that wouldn't be the worst thing for the Tigers. In his past five starts, he has a 6.20 ERA and is 0-4. Former Ranger Ian Kinsler had a solid first year with the Tigers, but over the past month he's hitting just .243.
Over his past 11 outings, former Rangers reliever Darren O'Day has allowed eight runs (seven earned) in nine innings of work. Shortstop J.J. Hardy is batting just .172 over his last 16 games.
Familiar Faces: The Tigers are plenty familiar with Cruz's postseason antics, as he had six homers and 13 RBIs to earn ALCS MVP honors against the Tigers in the 2011 ALCS with the Rangers.