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Playing Those Mind Games Together: Tigers 8, Orioles 4

Bondo vs. Tejada: Who Ya Got?

I thought you were allowed to pitch inside on hitters, but Miguel Tejada apparently thinks such a philosophy doesn't apply to him. In the third inning, Jeremy Bonderman came in tight with a two-seam fastball that broke Tejada's bat as he defensively checked his swing. The ball didn't actually hit Tejada, the umpires ruled it was a fair ball, and Pudge threw him out at first base.

But for whatever reason (Tejada thinks the Tigers threw at him three weeks ago in Baltimore), the Orioles shortstop kept jibber-jabbering at Bonderman and pointing at him from the dugout. I guess Bondo didn't get the memo that no one's supposed to pitch inside on Tejada. Never mind that Nick Markakis was on third base, ready to score, so Bonderman likely wasn't fooling around. And, oh yeah - THE PITCH NEVER HIT HIM.

Obviously, Tejada has the right to say anything he wants, especially if he thinks he's being thrown at, but as I watched the incident again (and what happened two innings later), it seemed like he was trying to get under Bonderman's skin and intimidate him.

But Bondo showed what kind of onions he has in the fifth inning when Tejada came up again. After Daniel Cabrera hit Gary Sheffield in the bottom of the third in obvious retaliation, Bonderman showed he wasn't going to back down from this garbage and threw a pitch at Tejada's feet, causing him to jump out of the way. Once again, Tejada tried to bully Bonderman by pointing his bat at him, to which Bondo responded by beckoning Tejada to the mound. Bring it on, tough guy.

From there, the benches cleared for a round of ¿Quién Es Más Macho? with Sheffield and Cabrera almost going at it (because Cabrera was jawing at Jim Leyland), and Joel Zumaya running around like a crazed dog, looking to take out a weekend's worth of frustration on anybody in an Orioles uniform who wanted some.

The funny thing is that the Orioles appeared to take their own heads out of the game, instead of distracting the Tigers into thinking about anything but the matter at hand: winning a ballgame. I'm all for showing the opponent that you're not going to take any crap and that they'll have to fight for a win. But if you're going to do that, you have to eventually back that up on the scoreboard. And that's where the Orioles came up short.

By the way, Bonderman got his much-deserved first win of the season for his troubles. He most certainly earned it.

Do NOT Poke the Bear!

Actually, the guy who came out looking the worst was Cabrera. I'm sure he was already frustrated at returning to his ol' self-defeating self by allowing two runs without even giving up a hit in the first inning. By the time he smacked Sheffield in the back, ostensibly to defend a teammate who HADN'T EVEN BEEN HIT BY A PITCH, he'd already walked four batters and let the Tigers tie the score at 2-2.

Then came the fifth inning, after that scrum nearly broke out. And if Cabrera wanted to show the Tigers he wasn't going to back down, he failed rather miserably. Sheffield had already shown signs of breaking out of the slump that had plagued him throughout April (batting .375 in his last six games), and historically, he's hit extremely well against the Orioles. Don't mess with a bear if he's slumbering. You don't know what might happen if you wake him up.

Sheffield crushed Cabrera's 2-1 fastball deep into left field, somewhere around the area where Magglio Ordonez's home run in Game 4 of the ALCS landed last year. If Cabrera wanted to help bully the Tigers, he shouldn't have served a meatball down the middle of the plate. Bears love meatballs. Everyone knows that. Game over. Thanks for playing.

"I was always told by Dave Parker," Sheffield said after the game, "whenever you hit one like that, you have a right to look at it."

Oh, but Cabrera didn't like how Sheffield admired his towering fly ball as it soared into the Detroit sky, and then strutted down the first base line as it landed in the stands. The centerfield camera caught Cabrera staring down Sheffield as he rounded the bases to score the go-ahead run. Hey, here's an idea: Don't give up a home run. Especially one that was blasted 400 feet. This is from the same guy, by the way, who pointed to the stands in triumph after leaving his last start against the Tigers with a 5-2 lead. So he can strut, but the other team can't? That's total bull$#!+. So was Cabrera's refusal to talk to the press after the game.

"I have the utmost respect for Sheffield," Sam Perlozzo said to the Baltimore Sun. "I've watched him for years. If I had to pick someone [to tick off], he wouldn't be the guy."

Maybe Cabrera should listen to his manager more closely.

So the next two games ought to be interesting, eh?