Having the best record in your league after 162 games is supposed to mean something when postseason baseball gets started. That's what both the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hope, starting late Thursday afternoon when the American League playoffs begin.
The Orioles, based on their 96-66 regular season record, host the Detroit Tigers at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday in the first game of their best-of-five American League Division Series.
The pitching matchup in Baltimore features Chris Tillman of the Orioles, with a 13-6 mark in 2014, going up against the Tigers' Max Scherzer. The 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner went 18-5 this season.
Both pitchers sported 5-1 records in their last ten games, with four no-decisions. Tillman's earned run average (ERA) during that stretch was 2.38, Scherzer 2.94.
The AL Central Division champion Tigers were the top hitting team in all of Major League Baseball this season, with a .277 average. The Orioles, who won the AL East, were ninth in team batting at .256. But the O's hit an MLB-leading 211 home runs.
Detroit's offensive attack is led by designated hitter Victor Martinez, who had a .335 batting average with 32 home runs and 103 runs batted in (RBI). Right behind him is reigning two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera, who hit .314 this year with 25 homers and 109 RBI.
The Orioles are back in the postseason for a second straight season following a long playoff drought. Baltimore's top hitter this season has been centerfielder Adam Jones, who hit .281 with 29 home runs and 96 RBI. Utilityman Steve Pearce came off the bench during the year to hit .293 with 21 homers. Baltimore's real power source is outfielder Nelson Cruz, signed as a free agent last winter after serving a 50-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. Cruz hit 40 home runs and knocked in 108 runs in the 2014 regular season.
You can watch the Orioles and Tigers at 5:30 p.m on TBS.
For the nightcap, the Angels will start Jered Weaver, the only pitcher on the staff to throw more than 200 innings this year. Weaver was 18-9 with a 3.59 ERA. The Royals' starter will be Jason Vargas, who put together an 11-10 record with a 3.71 ERA.
The Angels have a potent lineup, led by AL MVP candidate Mike Trout. The LA centerfielder and New Jersey native hit 36 home runs, drove in 111 runs and had a .287 batting average. Former three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols also provides offensive pop for the Angels. He hit 28 homers and had 105 RBI.
Kansas City is fresh off their thrilling, extra-inning wildcard playoff win over the Oakland A's Tuesday night. Not relying on any one player, the Royals look to get offensive production from their entire lineup. Power comes from players like catcher Salvador Perez, who was the team's lone representative in this year's All-Star Game. He hit 17 homers and had 70 RBI. Left fielder Alex Gordon provided 19 homers and drove in 74 runs. Third baseman Mike Moustakas chipped in with 15 homers and 54 RBI this season. Speed on the bases is also important, as the Royals led Major League Baseball with 153 stolen bases in 2014.
You can see the Royals and Angels at 9 p.m. Eastern on TBS, following the O's and Tigers.