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Tigers 7, Orioles 2: It's gonna be a long second half

That's not a good sign. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
That's not a good sign. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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We waited five days for THIS?

Tonight the O's returned from a nice, long, much-needed All-Star break. Four days to rest. Relax. Get healthy. Come back fresh. And they proceeded to lay a giant egg, sleepwalking through their most pitiful, lifeless debacle of a game since...well, since their last one.

The offense was worse than ever, even against a struggling pitcher. Their defense didn't make the plays. Their bullpen threw meatballs. And-- oh yeah-- their best starting pitcher left the game with a knee injury that could send him to a stint on the disabled list. If tonight's wreck was any indication of where the season will go from here, it might be time to cut our losses on the Birds and find another hobby for the rest of the year. I hear stamp collecting is fun.

The shame of it is that the O's did all this in front of a huge crowd that welcomed them back for the second half, with 35,566 exuberant fans filling Camden Yards on Matt Wieters jersey night. This is no way to convince them to return. The Birds took their fans out of the game almost immediately. Newly signed first-round pick Kevin Gausman, who was on hand after officially inking a deal with the Birds this afternoon, perhaps was wondering what he got himself into.

Things took a rough turn almost immediately, as the Tigers singled Jason Hammel to death to take a 2-0 lead in the first. A quartet of hits was capped by Brennan Boesch's bases-loaded single that brought home two. The O's had a chance to throw out that second runner, but Nick Markakis-- back from the DL-- lobbed a mile-high, slow, looping throw to the plate. The hamate bone must've been the source of his cannon arm! They never should've taken it out!

After facing seven batters in the first, Hammel looked more Hammel-like in a scoreless second and third, striking out three. But in the fourth: disaster. With a 1-2 count on Boesch, Hammel appeared to limp back to the mound after a delivery. Buck Showalter and the trainers converged on the mound, and Hammel-- after taking a couple of practice tosses-- decided he couldn't continue. Argh! Hammel was diagnosed with a right knee "injury" (vague enough for you?), the same knee that's been giving him trouble off and on this year. As of this writing there's no word on whether Hammel is DL-bound or day-to-day...but these are the Orioles, so let's just assume the worst-case scenario. Wonderful way to kick off the second half.

The Orioles' once-stellar bullpen let the game get completely out of hand. Showalter cycled through six different relievers-- wanting to give them work after the four-day layoff-- and the first two of them were horrific. Luis Ayala allowed an RBI double to .171-hitting Ryan Raburn in the fourth, and then a colossal Miguel Cabrera homerun in the fifth that smacked the batter's-eye wall in deep center field. What a prodigious shot. Ayala sure has been terrible lately, huh? Later in the fifth, Dana Eveland coughed up a three-run blast to Jhonny Peralta, extending the Tigers' run total to seven. Only halfway through the game, the O's were hopelessly out of it.

Of course, even just two runs would've been enough for the Tigers, because the O's offense was the same unsightly, hapless bunch we've seen for nearly a month now. Tigers starter Doug Fister entered the night with a 4.75 ERA...and lowered it a cool 35 points by the time he was finished facing the Orioles. He faced 24 batters, and a grand total of three reached base. Two were in the third inning-- a double by Wilson Betemit and an RBI two-bagger by Markakis-- and then Fister retired 12 in a row before Wieters's harmless single in the seventh. Fister racked up eight strikeouts and walked nobody, making mincemeat of the Birds' bats. He also got some defensive help behind him, as left fielder Quintin Berry-- Adam Jones's BFF-- made an outstanding leaping catch at the wall to rob Betemit of a homerun in the fifth.

The O's tallied a meaningless run in the ninth on a Wieters RBI double, but Mark Reynolds grounded to third to end the game exactly three hours after it began. Felt more like 30. The O's have slipped to four games over .500 and don't appear to be turning it around anytime soon.