Three keys for Orioles in ALDS vs. Tigers

Three keys for Orioles in ALDS vs. Tigers

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles finally know who their opponent in the American League Division Series will be, a Detroit Tigers team they went 1-5 against this season. So how do the O's, who easily won the AL East, ensure this best-of-five set has a different outcome? Here are three keys for Baltimore to have success.

1. Get to the bullpen

It's no secret that the Tigers' Achilles' heel has been their relief corps, a fact on full display in postseasons past and one that figures heavily into the equation this fall. Detroit's bullpen had a 4.07 ERA in 24 1/3 postseason innings in 2013, a 3.90 ERA in 32 1/3 innings in '12 and an 8.01 ERA in 39 1/3 innings in '11.

While the Tigers have a formidable rotation, Detroit's late-innings crew just doesn't match up with the O's terrific trio of Andrew Miller, Darren O'Day and first-year closer Zach Britton. If the O's offense can get to the 'pen in a close game, Baltimore will takes its chances off a Detroit bullpen that has a 4.28 ERA in the seventh inning or later this season.

  Date   Matchup/Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 2   BAL 12, DET 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   BAL 7, DET 6 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   BAL 2, DET 1 video

2. Use home-field advantage

What did the Orioles clinch early for if not to use every advantage afforded to them as the No. 2 seed? Manager Buck Showalter has rested his regulars, allowing guys like Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce to get in front of nagging injuries, given his starters extra days off and he's also lighten the workload for the relievers. The O's will take Monday off and then have light workouts Tuesday and Wednesday before hosting Detroit on Thursday on TBS.

Detroit, on the other hand, will have to play Games 1, 2 and 5 (if necessary) on the road and had to win Sunday's game to help ensure it wouldn't have a tiebreaker game with the Royals on Monday. If the O's take advantage of home-field advantage, they'll only have to win one game in Detroit, where they went 1-2 this season

3. Pitching, pitching and more pitching 

No, not that bullpen again. The Orioles' starting pitching has a tall task in lining up against a rotation that includes three AL Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price. As the old adage goes, pitching wins championships, and Detroit has arguably the most lethal top three in this year's postseason.

Baltimore's rotation, having turned things around from June 1, will have to try to keep Detroit's lineup, which includes Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, in check in order to avoid an early hole that force the O's lineup to start pressing. Baltimore has a power-heavy lineup, having led the Majors in home runs this season, and it's very capable of getting the early lead. Game 1 starter Chris Tillman, along with the rest of his rotation mates, will be challenged to throw zeros.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.