Game two of this three-game series between the Detroit Tigers (22-12) and Baltimore Orioles (20-16) gained some added incentive Monday night when both benches and bullpens emptied onto the field in anger.
Detroit led the game 2-1 for much of the night until Ian Kinsler blasted his fourth home run of the season down the left field line in the top of the eight inning. The hit tagged starter Bud Norris with four earned runs, leaving him without a quality start despite an excellent performance.
Norris showed his frustration on the very next pitch, hitting Torii Hunter with a fastball in the ribs. Hunter took exception to the move and sidetracked into the grass towards the pitcher's mound on his way to first base. The five-time All-Star and 18-year veteran brought both teams onto the field with his heated remarks toward Norris, who was tossed immediately by home plate umpire James Hoye.
The exchange is sure to bring even more meaning to the rest of the series, which already features two first-place teams in the American League.
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On Tuesday the Tigers will send out starter Drew Smyly, who blanked the Orioles in three scoreless innings of relief on April 4. Baltimore has never scored on the young left-hander, and he has struck out eight Orioles in eight career innings while surrendering just two hits. In fact, only one player from Baltimore's starting lineup on Monday (Nelson Cruz) has ever earned a hit off of Smyly, making them 1-19 as a group.
Smyly will have to be careful with catcher Steve Clevenger after the 28-year-old ripped two doubles and a single off of Detroit in game one. The backup has four hits in two games since Matt Wieters went on the disabled list.
First-year Oriole Ubaldo Jimenez will toe the rubber against Detroit, a team he has struggled with since his move to the AL in 2011. In fact, the top five hitters from Monday's lineup hit a combined .339 (39/115) against the righty in their careers.
Jimenez got off to a miserable start in his first season with the Orioles. He owned an 0-4 record and 6.59 ERA through his first five starts, which all resulted in losses for Baltimore. But the former Cy Young Award-winner turned things around in May, posting a 0.71 ERA in two winning efforts. On Tuesday he'll put his winning streak on the line against the top offense in the AL in terms of average.
The 22-year-old Smyly will have an easier task, as Baltimore enters the game ranked 13th in the AL in runs scored. Smyly lost his last start to Houston, which owns the worst offense in the AL.
Detroit is hoping to win two straight games for the first time since an eight-game winning streak that but some space between the heavily-favored Tigers and the rest of the AL Central Division. The Kansas City Royals moved into second place with a win on Monday, but trail Detroit by 5.5 games.
The Tigers will finish up their series on Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon before traveling to Boston for a three-game set that begins Friday.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, MASN (Baltimore)