Tigers-Orioles Preview

When Buck Showalter took over as the Baltimore Orioles' manager early last month, the club was well on its way toward posting the majors' worst record and its first 100-loss season since 1988.

Neither of those two will happen now.

The Orioles open their final series of the season Thursday night at Camden Yards, where they will face Detroit Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman in what could be his final start with the team.

Hired July 29 to reshape a team that struggled under former skipper Dave Trembley and interim manager Juan Samuel, Showalter has led Baltimore (63-95) to a 31-22 record since taking over Aug. 3.

The club was a major league-worst 32-73 when he started.

Wednesday's 2-0 victory at Tampa Bay capped off a 4-5 trip and guaranteed that the Orioles won't reach triple-digit losses for the first time in 22 years.

"It's a little embarrassing to lose 100," Kevin Millwood said after throwing seven innings of two-hit ball. "We've played really good baseball here the last month-and-a-half. ...I think we're kind of clicking pretty much all cylinders and I think we can play with anybody right now."

The Orioles, 16-10 at home under Showalter, will take that confidence into a matchup against Bonderman (8-9, 5.18 ERA). After making just 20 combined appearances over the last two seasons due to shoulder problems, the right-hander is 8 1/3 innings shy of reaching 175 for the first time since 2006. Bonderman, though, doesn't expect the Tigers to give him another chance in 2011 to prove he can stay healthy.

"It's part of the business. The Tigers have a good farm system," he said Sunday, a day after yielding seven runs over four innings of a 11-10, 13-inning win over Minnesota.

"I proved I'm healthy, but it's a matter of being more consistent. I have had games I've dominated and games like Saturday."

Facing the Orioles for the first time since April 30, 2007, Bonderman will try to help Detroit (80-78) avoid its first four-game slide since Aug. 4-7.

The Tigers, who scored six total runs while getting swept by Cleveland to open their season-ending seven-game trip, will face Jeremy Guthrie (10-14, 3.98) in the series opener.

Although the right-hander has allowed 10 runs and four homers in his last two outings, he has saved Baltimore's bullpen this year, becoming the first Orioles pitcher since Mike Mussina and Sidney Ponson in 1999 and 2000 to have back-to-back 200-inning seasons.

"Even though it may not seem like it in the season we've had as a whole, that's impressive," Showalter said after Guthrie surrendered four runs in 6 1/3 innings of Saturday's 5-4, 11-inning defeat in Toronto.

Guthrie went seven scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory at Detroit on Sept. 11.

The Tigers have won four of six versus the Orioles this season, with all the games being played at Comerica Park. In the teams' last matchup at Camden Yards, they split a four-game set May 28-31, 2009.