DETROIT — Because he has spent most of his six-season career with the Houston Astros, Orioles right-hander Bud Norris has never had the opportunity to pitch in the postseason. That changes Sunday, when Norris will start Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers.
"That's pretty much what you dream for as a kid, play in the postseason and get to the World Series," said Norris, who was 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts this season. "And this is just one of the steps."
Norris knew he'd be included in the Orioles' postseason rotation, but he wasn't sure whether it would be Game 3 or Game 4 in Detroit. He found out Friday night on the team plane that he would be pitching Sunday opposite former Cy Young Award winner David Price. If Norris can manage to win, the Orioles will advance to the American League Championship Series for the first time in 17 years.
"You have to prepare the best you can, mentally and physically. I've pitched in some big games in my career and this may be the biggest," said Norris, who was traded from the Astros to the Orioles on July 31, 2013 for outfielder L.J. Hoes and minor league pitcher Josh Hader. "It's just 60-feet, six inches and I'm going to go out there and pitch the best game I can."
Norris has had his troubles against the Tigers in four career starts, going 0-3 with a 6.57 ERA. He's 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in two games at Comerica Park and 0-2 with a 6.40 ERA in two games against the Tigers this year — one each at home and away. But he hasn't faced them since May 12. And he seemingly has risen to the occasion this season when the Orioles need a good performance.
"Bud is a very competitive, athletic guy," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's one of those guys on game day, when he's pitching, he's not a real pleasant guy to be around. But he likes to compete. He likes the competition."
Flaherty likely to start
Even with a lefty starting for the Tigers, left-handed hitting Ryan Flaherty is expected to get the start at third base Sunday. Flaherty has been strong defensively in the ALDS, and Showalter puts a premium on defense. Other third base options on the roster, Jimmy Paredes and Kelly Johnson, aren't considered as good at the hot corner.
Plus, Price isn't your typical left-handed pitcher. This season lefties actually have a higher batting average against him (.258) than right-handed hitters (.234).
The Orioles expect 23-year-old rookie Kevin Gausman to be in the rotation for years to come. But his strong performance out of the bullpen Friday — one run in 3 2/3 innings of relief — will help him no matter his future role, Showalter said.
"It's a constant proving ground, but it's a part of the process, another part of the equation that he can put into his memory bank as we go forward," Showalter said. "I want them to have fun with the things that they earned and Kevin has earned it."
Around the horn
Nelson Cruz is 10-for-28 (.357 average) in his career against Price. He has three homers against Price in 30 plate appearances. The rest of the Orioles have three homers against Price in a combined 194 plate appearances. … The only other Orioles who have homered against Price are Johnson, Delmon Young and Steve Pearce. … Tigers catcher Alex Avila is 0-for-10 with five strikeouts lifetime against Norris.