Why don't the Orioles ever lose the way I expect them to lose? I guess that's what I get for figuring Justin Verlander would shut them down and I'd have very little action to write about. I was wrong. There were big home runs from the Tigers, ridiculous bunts from the Orioles, and outrageous shenanigans by the umpires
In the top of the first inning, Nick Markakis led off with a double off of Verlander and after J.J. Hardy, for some reason, bunted in the first inning, he was on third for Nate McLouth's at-bat. McLouth hit a bouncing ball towards first base and Nick broke for the plate. Prince Fielder threw home and Markakis clearly beat the tag. Home plate umpire Tim Timmons didn't see it that way, though, and called him out. Nick protested and Buck Showalter came out of the dugout to show his displeasure, but the damage was done.
I happened to be in the car during this play and just after it happened I lost WBAL's signal for a second. I flipped over to the Detroit Tigers broadcast on my satellite radio just in time to hear their announcers just as convinced that the umpire was wrong as everyone on the Baltimore station was.
A play like that would be annoying any day for the week, but to lose a run when a guy like Verlander on the mound is brutal.
So with Verlander off the hook for the run in the first, the Tigers were free to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, Miguel Cabrera hit a Tommy Hunter fastball to left field for his 31st homer of the year. It wasn't the worst pitch Hunter has ever thrown, but it was a little higher than Wieters set up for. And against a batter like Cabrera there is no room for error.
The Orioles tied the game in the top of the third inning as Verlander showed a rare loss of control. He walked Omar Quintanilla to start the inning and Markakis made him pay with a double to the gap in right-center. Quintanilla scored easily and the game was tied 1-1.
After the Cabrera home run, Hunter had to work out of a few sticky situations, including a three-base error by Adam Jones with one out in the fourth. But he put up enough zeroes to give the O's offense a chance to take the lead, and they did just that in the top of the fifth inning. With Hardy on base and two outs, Matt Wieters picked a great time for his 17th home run. Alex Avila set up low and inside for the 3-2 pitch, but Verlander instead threw up and over the plate. Matt didn't miss it.
Three runs (should be four) against Verlander! That's not what I was expecting tonight. What a fun game!
Of course, before I got to bask in the lead for too long, the umpiring shenanigans started up again. Jhonny Peralta led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a ground ball to third base. Manny Machado made the tough play but his throw caused Mark Reynolds to have to dive for the ball. In fast motion it looked like he may have come off the bag too soon, but the first base umpire called Peralta out. The slow-mo replays, including this great still pic, show that the call was a good one: Peralta was out. He immediately protested though, and Tigers' manager Jim Leyland came out as well. The umpires barely conferred before reversing the call, and that's when it hit the fan. Reynolds slammed his glove on the ground in disgust and was immediately tossed from the game. That's despite the fact that it's not something for which people normally get ejected. That got Buck out of the dugout where he argued until his face was purple, and then HE was ejected. And all the while, the initial call was correct. You can check out the video of these shenanigans here.
Thankfully, Hunter got out of the fifth inning without that runner scoring. I don't even want to think of the outrage if he had. He wasn't so lucky in the sixth inning, however, as the two-run lead the Orioles had been clinging to was erased with one monstrous swing of the bat. With one out, Cabrera singled to right field, and then on the first pitch of the next at bat, Fielder hit one of the longest home runs I've seen all year. It went to center field and hit the railing above the tall green wall and was measured at 462 feet. That tied the game, and while it's frustrating to see Hunter give up home run after home run, it's hard to get too down on him for giving up homers to those two guys.
Hunter got the Orioles through six innings and allowed three runs, the old quality start. And while we've determined that the Orioles live and die by the QS, it wasn't to be tonight. Even though they knocked Verlander out after six innings and scored
four three runs off of him, they couldn't solve Detroit's bullpen. In the seventh through ninth innings, the O's had just one baserunner thanks to a double from Machado in the ninth.
The same couldn't be said for the Tigers, who had one more mammoth home run in them. Darren O'Day replaced Hunter to start the seventh and retired the first five batters he faced before walking Cabrera with two outs in the 8th. With the lefty Fielder coming up to bat, acting manager John Russell brought in lefty J.C. Romero to face him. It did not go well.
Romero went to 1-1 on Fielder, then threw him a nasty slider for a called strike two. Wieters put down a sign for the next pitch and Romero shook him off. Hey J.C., I know you're new here, but here's the thing: don't shake off Matt Wieters. Romero ended up throwing a 90 mph fastball to Prince Fielder, who crushed hit to right field like he was taking batting practice.
With a 5-3 lead going into the 9th, it was all but over. Tigers' closer Jose Valverde worked around Machado's leadoff double with two fly ball outs and a strike out from Hardy that featured two truly pathetic swings.
So, the Orioles lose, even though Tommy Hunter outpitched Justin Verlander. I guess that's baseball, man.