As the Detroit Tigers (23-12) finish up their series with the Baltimore Orioles (20-17) Wednesday afternoon, baseball fans have to be disappointed to see the battle between these two first-place teams end.
During game one Baltimore held a one-run lead for two innings before Detroit scored two in the fourth and led 2-1 throughout the majority of the game. Then Ian Kinsler hit a two-run blast down the right field line to solidify the victory. On the next pitch Torii Hunter was hit by starter Bud Norris, prompting the benches and bullpens to empty onto the field.
Hunter quietly took his revenge during game two, drawing a two-out walk in the ninth inning after a 1-2 count to bring Miguel Cabrera to the dish with a 1-0 defecit. Cabrera turned on a pitch from closer Tommy Hunter and drove it deep over the left-center field wall for a three-run home run. Amid the raucous celebrations in the Tiger dugout, Victor Martinez crushed a Hunter offering deep over the right field wall and out onto Eutaw Street.
Joe Nathan slammed the door in the ninth inning for his second straight save. The 39-year-old has saved both games during the series, allowing just one hit on 17 pitches in two innings. His streak of eight scoreless outings has lowered his ERA to a more Nathan-like 3.68.
TV: 12:35 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, MASN2 (Baltimore)
Detroit is in good position to sweep the first-place Orioles with ace Justin Verlander on the mound Wednesday. Verlander has absolutely dominated the Orioles in his career, holding an 8-2 record in 14 career starts against them. The 31-year-old suffered a rare loss to Baltimore on April 6 when he allowed two runs on five hits in eight strong innings.
The Orioles will send out No. 2 prospect Kevin Gausman to face the Tiger lineup in his first MLB action of the season. The 23-year-old bounced between the rotation and the bullpen during his first season in 2013, notching an inflated 5.66 ERA and blowing two cruicial saves in September. Gausman got the call to the majors after sporting a 2.08 ERA through six starts with triple-A Norfolk. The former No. 4 overall pick is considered an elite future talent for manager Buck Showalter.
Though Detroit represents an intimidating offense for a pitcher making his first start of the season, Gausman silenced the Tigers for his only quality start of the season last year. On June 2 he pitched six innings and gave up just one run when Prince Fielder hit a rocket out to right field. Hunter is the only current Tiger that has hit Gausman in his career.
Tuesday's exciting win pushed the Tigers to 4-1 against Baltimore on the season. Detroit maintained a 5.5-game lead over the Kansas City Royals, who improved to an even 19-19 on Tuesday.
Check: Current MLB Standings
Detroit will take a day off on Thursday for the first time since May 1 before continuing this nine-game road trip in Boston Friday night.