The Baltimore Orioles rode home runs off the bats of J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones to 5-2 victory over an ineffective Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
Orioles starter and winner Zach Britton (1-1) out-pitched Verlander, holding the Tigers to one run and five hits over 5 1/3 innings. Four Orioles relievers combined to hold the Tigers to one run over the final 3 2/3 innings, Jim Johnson pitching the ninth for his 26th save.
In five plus innings, Verlander (8-5) allowed seven hits and four walks. The Orioles rocked the Tigers' ace for five runs, all coming off two big flies. Three Tigers' relievers would combine for four scoreless innings, but the damage had already been done.
Those two swings of the bat supplied all the offense the Orioles would need. Hardy hit a two run homer in the fourth, Jones a three run bomb in the fifth. Up 5-0, the Orioles would hold on from there. Matt Tuiasosopo homered for the Tigers, Austin Jackson drove in the last run of the night with a seventh inning single. Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera each chipped in with two hits.
Despite the Orioles being held scoreless after the fifth, the Tigers' offense wasn't up to the challenge, unable to mount a comeback. Between the lack of offense and Verlander serving up home runs, you get DOOOOM. For one night, anyway.
The first runner of the game to reach second base was Jhonny Peraltra, jhust mhissing a home run with two out in the second. His fly ball to deep right was over the glove of a leaping Nick Markakis, but hit the wall a few inches below the yellow home run line. Peralta would move no further, Britton retiring Tuiasosopo on a ground ball to third, ending the threat.
The Orioles countered in the next half inning with a bases loaded threat, forcing Verlander to double his pitch count.
One down in the third, Ryan Flaherty singled, then advanced to third on Nate McLouth's double to right. Verlander struck out Manny Machado swinging, then thought he had ended the inning, thanks to a wicked 0-2 breaking ball to Markakis. But home plate umpire Mike Winters and Rod Allen's best buddy Mr. Fox Trax didn't agree, calling the pitch ball one. Markakis fouled off a couple of 97 MPH fastballs before Velrlander walked him, loading the bases for Adam Jones.
Verlander would finally get out the inning on his 30th pitch, Jones leaving the bases juiced by popping up to Cabrera. Velrander entered the third inning having thrown 30 pitches. He ended it with a pitch count of 60.
On the flip, Britton needed just six pitches in a 1-2-3 bottom half of the third, the Tigers not even allowing him to work up a sweat.
After squandering a bases loaded opportunity in the third, the Orioles finally got to Verlander in the top of the fourth, taking a 2-0 lead. After walking Matt Wieters, Verlander's nemesis, Hardy, hit a fly ball which had enough juice to carry into the left field bullpen. It's was Hardy's 14th home run of the season, and more impressively, his third home run in his last five at bats against Verlander.
After Machado robbed Hunter of extra bases, Cabrera singled with one down in the fourth. He was erased on a 4-6 Fielder's choice off the bat of Prince Fielder, his helmet flying as he beat the throw by a step. Britton then walked Victor Martinez, but Peralta end the midl scoring threat on a can of corn to short center.
Before Verlander could get a single out in the fifth, the Orioles pushed their lead to an ultimately insurmountable 5-0.
Leading off the fifth, Machado dropped a Texas Leaguer in front of Tuiasosopo (who was playing so deep he was closer to 8 Mile than home plate). This time Diaz called the runner safe on a bang-bang play at second, which replays confirmed. Verlander then issued a four pitch walk to Markakis. Then Jones dropped the three run bomb, taking Verlander's fastball the opposite field for an Earl Weaver Special. The three run home run to right made the score 5-0.
It was game essentially over.
Verlander would get out of the fifth without incident, but down by five runs and with a pitch count of 102, his night was finished.
Tuiasosopo got the Tigers on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the fifth, smacking a lead off solo shot over the wall in right. Tuiasosopo's third home run of the season pulled the Tigers to within four, at 5-1.
Darin Downs and Luke Putkonen were warming up in the pen, and both would see action. But It was Downs who relieved Verlander, taking over in the top of the sixth. Downs was much better in his second appearance after Jim Leyland realized he was still on the roster. He allowed a two out single to Machado, but proceeded to pick him off to end the inning.
The Tigers were unable to do much of anything with the Orioles' journeyman starter. After walking Fielder, Buck Showaler pulled Britton after 5 1/3 innings, having allowed five hits and just the one run. Darren O'Day replaced Britton to get the last two outs of the sixth.
Downs did something Verlander couldn't do, finally retire Markakis, who grounded out to start the seventh. Leyland then yanked Downs, replacing him with Putkoneen with the right-hand hitting Jones and Chris Davis due up. Putkonen did his job, ending the seventh with a Jones ground ball and Davis strike out.
The Tigers were still within striking distance, down 5-1 at the seventh inning stretch.
O'Day still on the mound, Omar Infante and Brayan Pena led off the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back singles. Make it three straight singles, Jackson ripping a line drive RBI single to left center. The Tigers had cut the Orioles' lead to 5-2, with the meat of the order coming to the plate.
Instead of steak, the inning played out like the Tigers had Spam in the middle of the order.
Hunter followed with a double play ball to Machado, which second base umpire Diaz turned into a fielder's choice. Machado tagged Pena coming down the line (Pena had gone out of the base path to compound matters), then threw to second to force Jackson. But Diaz ruled Machado missed the tag of Pena, which replays confirmed was incorrect.
After Showalter had said his very angry piece to no avail, the Tigers had one out, runners on the corners, Cabrera and Fielder due up at the plate. Things looked good, until they very quickly didn't.
Both Cabrera and Fielder would have uncharacteristically bad at bats, a possible crooked number inning soon squandered.
The count 1-1, Cabrera sent a foul pop to first for the second out. Showalter then went for the lefty-lefty matchup, calling on Brian Matusz to face Fielder. He needed just one pitch to retire the Tigers' cleanup man. Fielder sent a foul pop up to the other side of the diamond, Machado hauling it in to end an extremely frustrating inning.
One down, runners and the corners and their best two hitters coming to the plate - Yet the Tigers came up snake eyes.
Putkonen and Phil Coke would pitch scoreless eighth and ninth innings, keeping the Orioles within reach. But once again the Tigers' bats were silent when it counted in the late innings.
The Tigers threatened one more time, only to come up short. Johnson on the mound and one down, Jackson walked and Hunter singled, bringing Cabrera to the plate. One pitch later, DOOOM. Swinging at Johnson's first serving, Cabrera bounced intro a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play.
It was another one of "those" games in regard to the offense, even more so because the Tigers' bats could do little against Britton, who entered the night with a season ERA of 9.00 and career ERA of 4.85. Two runs was not nearly enough to overcome the two home runs Verlander served up.
The Tigers can overcome a bad outing from a starter or a off night from the offense. They can't overcome both in the same game.
Their five game home winning streak snapped by the Orioles, the Tigers drop to 39-30. Their lead in Central currently stands at 4 1/2 games, as the Indians and Royals trade off second place. The Tribe beat the Royals tonight as they move to .500 and second place while the Royals drop one game under break even and into third.
The Orioles and Tigers wrap up their three game series with a weekday matinee. Chris Tillman (7-2, 3.61 ERA) toes the slab for the Orioles, facing Rick Porcello (4-3, 4.37 ERA), who has allowed just four runs total in his last four starts. First pitch is 1:08.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Miguel Cabrera had the first hit of the game, a two out single in the first. He was also thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double, not turning on the "jets" (term used loosely) until reaching the first base bag. It appeared Cabrera beat left fielder Nate McLouth's throw, and was called out by second base umpire Laz Diaz. He looked safe to the naked eye, and replays confirmed Cabrera beat the tag in a bang-bang play. The internets were torn, either Cabrera wasn't hustling...
#Tigers Cabrera gets much credit for being a smart runner, but reason he was out @ 2B in 1st was not running hard to 1B before turnedonjets.— Steve Kornacki (@SKORNACKI) June 18, 2013
...or the umpire was a bum.
I think Miggy was safe, but I'm biased, have poor eyesight, and assume that umpires are always wrong.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) June 18, 2013
Meanwhile, at Rob's house...
Why yes, I am playing 5 baseball games at once. Why? Because America. pic.twitter.com/5lc5tvftKy— BYB Rob (@Detroit4lyfeRob) June 18, 2013
Rod Allen grammar mistake of the game: "He retired the rookie phenom." Unfortunately for Rod, fee-nom came out a fee-naam.
From the baseball is a funny game department: Justin Verlander has allowed seven home runs this season. The last three home runs allowed by Verlander were all hit by J.J. Hardy.
Manny Machado is working his way up to Tiger Killer. The young fee-naam robbed Torii Hunter of extra bases in the fourth with a highlight reel diving stop. Hunter smashed a hot shot down the line, Machado made a diving grab, then quickly hopped to his feet to throw out Hunter by a step.
Normally I would be all up in arms over Jim Leyland using Don Kelly as a pinch hitter. Normally being the operative word. Donnie Baseball has been anything but normal of late with an abnormal 1.348 OPS for the month of June. Small sample size and all that, but Kelly is smoking hot, hitting.500/.563/.786 over his last nine games. Regardless, the Tigers didn't lose this game because Kelly fouled out in his eighth inning at bat. Feel free to point your finger in several different directions if you want to anoint blame.
Before everyone spews doom and gloom over Verlander having another rough start, claiming he's been consistently inconsistent, or is going to suck for the rest of his career, please calm down. In four starts previous to tonight, Verlander was 3-0, 2.89 and a blown Jose Valverde save away from four straight victories. As for his season ERA of 3,72, a three game stretch of bad starts inflated it - 11.37 in 12 2/3 innings against the Rangers and Indians in mid-May. Before that big bump in the road, Verlander's season ERA was 1.55. Verlander hasn't been All-World great this season, but he's still been damn good.
Even it it doesn't fit the narrative, Verlander is a big part of this stretch of amazing starting pitching:
Tigers starters had allowed three or fewer runs in 17 consecutive starts prior to tonight's start by Justin Verlander.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) June 19, 2013
Anibal Sanchez was the last Tigers starter to allow more than three runs in a start, five against the Pirates on May 29. I hate to say it, but the Tigers were due for a meh outing from a starter. This rotation has spoiled us silly, raising expectations to almost absurd levels.
Post game, Jim Leyland was succinct in regard to Verlander's noight:
"He just didn't command his fastball."
Matt Tuiasosopo: All Tuiasosopo does when he plays is hit. Tonight Big Squiggles went yard to get the Tigers off the schneid.
The bullpen: Darin Downs, Luke Putkonen and Phil Coke held the Orioles scoreless, allowing two hits over four innings. They did their job, keeping the Tigers in the game.
Justin Verlander: More bothersome than the two home runs were four walks in five innings, including three to Nick Markakis. Verlander would have been better off walking J.J. Hardy.
Miguel Cabrera: Had chances to get the Tigers back in the game in the seventh and ninth innings. With runners in scoring position in both frames, the results were an un-Cabrera-like foul pop and a game ending double play.
The middle of the order: Cabrera, Fielder and Martinez were 2-for-11, zero runs or RBI.
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Several Tigers could have made a claim in a 5-1 win over the Orioles, but BYB voters went with undefeated Max Scherzer as PotG with 66% of the vote.