Tonight's game was just a little different from the first four games the Orioles played this year. Starting pitcher Brad Bergesen was very ineffective, lasting just 3.2 innings while Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander shut the Orioles down on four hits through eight innings. The end result was the O's first loss of the year, giving them a 4-1 record. I guess that means they'll only have 129 wins this year. I guess I can live with that.
Let's get the ugliness out of the way first, shall we? Brad Bergesen, making a spot start for the ill Jeremy Guthrie, did not have his best day. While his velocity looked pretty good he just could not locate his pitches. A ground ball artist on his good days, Bergy couldn't keep his pitches down (or in the strike zone). He only walked two batters, but went to a three-ball count on six of the eighteen batters he faced. In his 3.2 innings he threw 89 pitches and induced just one ground ball. It was just a poor showing for Bergy.
It was obvious from the get-go that Bergesen didn't have his pitches working for him. After retiring Austin Jackson to start things off, he walked Will Rhymes (best Will name this side of Will Startup), which brought Magglio Ordonez to the plate. Ordonez hit a bullet but luckily it was an easy catch for Adam Jones in centerfield. Will Rhymes helped the O's out by completely misreading the ball and taking off for second. Jones was able to double him up easily.
So instead of getting out of the inning, Bergesen had to face Jhonny (sp) Peralta, who he walked, then catcher Alex Avila hit a ball high off of the scoreboard in right field. He just missed the HR but did clear the bases, giving Bergesen two unearned runs in the inning.
Bergy escaped the third inning with just a single, although Miguel Cabrera killed a ball with two outs that happened to go right to J.J. Hardy at shortstop. Sadly, Bergy would not survive the fourth inning, allowing two more runs and getting just two outs. With two outs and Victor Martinez on base, Alex Avila came to bat.
Ok, I think I need to tell you all something. You know, just to get it off my chest. Before the game started I said to the person sitting next to me in the press box that despite the fact that Victor Martinez isn't a great catcher by any means, it might be worth the trade-off to have his bat at that position instead of Alex Avila. This, of course, came back to haunt me and after this particular at-bat by Avila I got told by said press box person that I'm a jinx. So, sorry about that guys.
Back to Avila. On a 2-2 pitch, he launched a ball to right field. It was absolutely a two-run HR, no doubt about it. That made the score 4-0 in favor of the Tigers and after Brandon Inge followed Avila's HR with a double down the right field line, Buck Showalter had seen enough of Bergy. His final line: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.
Replacing Bergesen was right handed pitcher Josh Rupe. On the surface Rupe had a tough day, but the fact is he ponied up three innings of relief that could make a difference later this week. I give him credit for that. I might even say it was a little bit Birdland. But what did he actually do, you ask? He retired Austin Jackson to end the fourth inning, for starters.
Raise your hand if you think that Miguel Cabrera is a much, much better baseball player than Josh Rupe. How about Victor Martinez? Well, Rupe gave up back-to-back home runs to those two guys. Yeah, it would have been better if he didn't. But I mean, honestly. Am I getting upset over that? Compared to all the other stuff that happened in this game? Eh.
With two outs in the seventh inning, Rupe had done all that he could. After a single to Ordonez and a walk to Cabrera, he was relieved by Mike Gonzalez. I know Rupe got a lot of, um, crap, in the gamethread, but I stand by the fact that he really wasn't so bad considering.
Gonzo retired V-Mart on a fly ball to left to end the inning but looked just terrible in the 8th. Ryan Raburn doubled to left to start the inning against him, and the ball was smoked, bouncing into the stands for an automatic double. Peralta flied out to Adam Jones in center, but that ball was also hit very well and Adam made a very nice catch (he had a couple beauties out there tonight). Rayburn tagged up and went to third on the play. He'd score on a single by Avila (I'm sorry, ok?) for the Tigers' seventh run on the day, fifth knocked in by Avila.
Kevin Gregg pitched the ninth inning and while he didn't allow any runs, he did give up two hits and looked kinda crappy. Are you surprised? No, me neither.
All this talk about the pitching! What about the hitting, you say? Yeah...about that. Justin Verlander dominated the Orioles tonight, allowing just four hits in eight innings. He walked two and struck out nine. Verlander retired the O's in order in the first, second, and third innings, and started the fourth with a three pitch strikeout of Brian Roberts. His perfect game was broken up by Nick Markakis, though, who drew a walk. Derrek Lee, who hasn't done much in an O's uniform yet this season, launched a pitch to right field for a flag court home run. It cut the Tigers lead in half at 4-2, and Vladimir Guerrero followed Lee's HR with a single past the diving shortstop Peralta, but Verlander struck out Adam Jones and Matt Wieters to stop the threat.
Verlander would allow one more run, this one in the sixth inning. Brian Roberts again led off and Verlander started him 0-2, but then gave Brian four straight balls for the O's second walk of the night. Verlander was very preoccupied with Brian throwing over to first five times during Markakis, Lee, and Vlad's at-bats. Brian finally got his chance with two outs and Guerrero at the plate, taking off for second and making all of Birdland cringe with his headfirst slide into second. He was safe, though, and scored on a single to right by Vlad. The throw home got away from Avila and Vlad lumbered down to second but was thrown out. He looked safe in the replay but man, watching him run is just painful.
That'd be it for the O's offense, other than a Felix Pie single in the 8th. Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect ninth for the Tigers, cementing the loss.
The O's will try to win the rubber match tomorrow as Chris Tillman will try to out pitch Brad Penny.