By Ken Boehlke

Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles

Series Price – DET (-135) BAL (+115)
AL Pennant – DET (+175) BAL (+300)
World Series – DET (+400) BAL (+750)

Even without Justin Verlander as his usual dominant self, the Tigers rotation looks to be almost unbeatable in a five-game series. The fact that David Price is expected to get the ball in Game 3 almost doesn’t seem fair, but that is not taking into account the strength of the Orioles lineup. Baltimore has home field advantage coming in so they will host the first two games and the all important Game 5 if the series makes it that far. They posted a ridiculous +112 run differential, a full 60 runs better than the Tigers, and their lineup can score on just about anyone. And their pitching staff is easily the most underrated in all of baseball.

The difference in this series may very well come down to experience. The Tigers have boatloads of it, but it’s always ended in major disappointment, while the Orioles are chock full of young talent that are ready to play in baseball’s second season for the first time. This is Detroit’s fourth consecutive trip to the postseason, and they have yet to be stopped in the opening round. But, the pressure is on this team, as many believe this is the most complete roster the Tigers have had in the past four seasons.

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Nelson Cruz will be crucial in the middle of the Orioles lineup. He leads the team in home runs and RBIs and must be the guy who clears the bases when the opportunities arise. It will be important for the bottom of the Orioles lineup to at least make life difficult on the Tigers starting pitchers. Jimmy Paredes and J.J. Hardy have to be able to roll the lineup over so that Nick Markakis and Adam Jones get more chances to set the table for Cruz.

On the other side, the Tigers simply have to get exactly what they pay for out of their big boppers in the middle of the lineup. If the Orioles cannot slow down at either Victor Martinez or Miguel Cabrera this series could be over before it ever starts. The Tigers are prone to slumps, but it all starts with making sure these two don’t get going early and often in games. Baltimore has the starters to get the job done, but the playoffs are a completely different ball game than the regular season, and the intensity might get to them.

It should be a competitive series, and Justin Verlander’s start may be the one that either causes Detroit to win rather easily or forces this one to go deep. We’ve got to go with the experience though when all is said and done. The Tigers have been here many times, and they just don’t seem to lose in the division series. Over the whole season the Orioles have been the better team, but we just can’t guarantee Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris can stack up against Max Scherzer, Verlander, and Price.

Pick: Detroit Tigers (-135)

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