The first four innings of Wednesday's game were a contest between Chris Tillman and Rick Porcello to see which pitcher with underwhelming stuff could survive the longest without giving up any runs. Porcello lost, as so many pitchers have lost, thanks to a flick of the bat by Chris Davis. It was not a bad pitch. Davis sliced it to the opposite field and like so many Davis fly balls, it just kept flying and landed over the fence. His 25th home run of the year was the first blow struck in what ultimately became a 13-3 rout by the Orioles.
When Porcello lost it, he lost it. That fourth inning saw seven Orioles get hits, with six of them scoring. Following Davis' homer, J.J. Hardy singled, then stole second as Travis Ishikawa struck out. It was Hardy's first stolen base in an Orioles uniform. Ryan Flaherty got in on the act, grounding a ball to Miguel Cabrera, who tried to tag Hardy going to third and did not succeed. There were two out as Taylor Teagarden stepped to the plate.
Going into today's game, he did not have a legitimate hit all season, with his lone base hit being a play that should have been scored an error. He looks awful out there. Porcello was worse, and Teagarden took advantage of the right pitch to sock an Earl Weaver Special to left, putting the Orioles up by a 5-0 score. They would add another run thanks to Manny Machado singling in Nate McLouth, who had doubled, two batters later.
In all, the Orioles hitters swamped all over the Tigers pitching staff for 17 hits. Every Orioles starter had a hit, with six of the nine starters having multi-hit games and Davis and McLouth recording three hits apiece. They batted a stunning 8-for-12 with runners in scoring position on the day, which one can only hope doesn't mean they used up their allotment for a while.
They needed the offense. It was a five and dive kind of game for Tillman, who never looked to have any sort of feel for his curveball today. It's easily the most devastating pitch in Tillman's arsenal, when it is on, but he did not have it today. He survived five-plus innings and that was all, departing with two men on and none out in the sixth. Long relief man T.J. McFarland came in and allowed the inherited runners to score, which made it a 6-3 score in favor of the O's. McFarland stopped the damage there, pitching the rest of the sixth and the seventh with no more runs scoring.
Tillman's line included seven hits and three walks in the five innings. You have not had a good day if your WHIP for the day is 2. Some days you do not have to be good, or even lucky. You just have to be less bad than the other guys, and that was Tillman in a nutshell. He was charged with three earned runs and only struck out a single batter. It was not a good day for Tillman, but it was a worse day for the Tigers pitching staff.
Because he made it five innings, Tillman was given the win, improving his record to 8-2 on the year. Porcello took the loss, dropping to 4-4.
The Detroit bullpen fared no better against O's hitters, with all three Tigers relievers allowing at least one run to score. They were tenderized by the six good hitters in the lineup. Adam Jones' two hits on the day came from the seventh inning on, combining for three RBI. Machado and Jones both scored a pair of runs in the game's final innings as the Orioles piled on insurance run after insurance run.
Much of that damage was thanks to Jose Valverde, who came in for a tune-up inning in garbage time and gave up four runs in the span of four batters before he recorded even one out. Davis added another home run, his 26th of the season, off of Valverde.
All of the three hits by Davis went for extra bases today and he is now slugging .720. That would be the 26th-best single-season slugging percentage of all time, and the best slugging mark since PED testing entered the game. Albert Pujols slugged .671 in 2006. There is a lot of baseball left to be played, but consider this: last year, Davis hit his 26th home run on September 14.
The game was safe enough for mop-up work by Pedro Strop, who took advantage of the low-leverage inning he threw to have a three-up, three-down inning with two strikeouts. An appearance by Freddy Garcia in the ninth inning saved any relievers from having to do that last inning of work.
It was Garcia's day for a side session, and with a day game, they had the luxury of just getting his work in the game. They did. He threw 13 pitches in one inning and was still quite sweaty. Garcia gave up two hits but no runs, closing the door on the Tigers and giving the Orioles another series win against a division leader. It was the final game the Orioles will play against the Tigers this year - in the regular season, anyway - and the O's have a 4-2 record for the season series. They've won seven of their last ten and stand two games back in the East, with Boston still to play Wednesday evening.
Next up after an off-day is the surging Toronto, winners of seven straight going into today's game. Either they're the last team you want to see right now, or they're due to cool off and it might as well be against the O's. The Friday starter for the Orioles will probably be Jason Hammel, skipped this week due to an illness. He'll be up against R.A. Dickey in the 7:07 game.