Tigers' staff outmatched vs. Orioles
Miner allows five runs in 1 1/3 innings; bullpen fares no better
DETROIT -- This is why Tigers manager Jim Leyland likes to say that momentum is only as good as the next day's pitcher.
It's also a snapshot of why the Tigers have struggled to find momentum for much of this season.
"It's happened way too many times this year," Leyland said.
Leyland wasn't referring to the details. Only once since 1956 have the Tigers given up more extra-base hits in a game than the dozen they yielded in Sunday's 16-8 loss to the Orioles, according to research on baseball-reference.com, and only once in the nine-year history of Comerica Park has Detroit surrendered more runs in a game here.
It's the pattern that gets to Leyland. Really, it's more like the lack of a pattern.
"One of the main reasons we haven't been able to maintain a streak," Leyland said, "is because we just haven't pitched good. You get a win, and then the next day, somebody doesn't pitch good."
It wouldn't have been a big streak for the Tigers had they won this one, just two games. But as they head into Texas to face a Rangers lineup that can put up runs in bunches and hit quality pitches just as easily, it would've been a heartening sign that they can overcome big-time offensive clubs.
The offense was so big on this day that nobody pitched particularly well except for three scoreless innings contributed by Orioles reliever Fernando Cabrera. The difference on Sunday came down to which relief staff could pitch well enough, since both starting pitchers were out of this game by the end of the second inning, having combined for just nine outs over the course of 115 pitches.
The Orioles blistered Tigers relievers for 11 more runs after Zach Miner's first rough start since rejoining the rotation. Baltimore's bullpen gave up three runs on 10 hits over 7 1/3 innings, and that was good enough.
"On a day like today, [it comes down to] whose bullpen comes in and halfway shuts the door," Leyland said. "If either starter pitched a good game today, they'd have a win. ... If we keep it close, we've got a shot. But eventually, it takes the wind out of your sails when you fight back and give up four, and then another inning, give up another four."
In this case, the comeback came surprisingly early, and the runaway followed all too soon.
Once Bobby Seay retired Juan Castro for the final out of the top of the ninth, Tigers hurlers had combined for 191 pitches. Just 106 of them went for strikes, and 22 of those went for base hits, including two homers and two doubles for Melvin Mora in a five-hit, six-RBI game that left him at 10-for-13 for the series.
It was a rough day for Miner to take a humbling outing. Considering he had allowed two runs or fewer over six innings in four of his previous five starts since joining Detroit's rotation last month, a fallback performance was going to come at some point. Still, few expected this.
Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis started the game with back-to-back doubles, the latter on a decent sinker out of the strike zone. Mora continued his tear against Tigers pitching with an RBI single. Aubrey Huff blooped another double down the left-field line before Kevin Millar lined a ball through the left side of the infield.
By the time Miner struck out Luke Scott for the game's first out, the O's had a 3-0 lead and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez had made a mound visit. Baltimore plated another run and batted around in the order by the time Miner retired the side.
"He threw a couple good pitches that got smoked," Leyland said, "and he threw some [worse] pitches that got smoked. They didn't have the crispness, didn't have the bite. ... He just had one of those days. He didn't have much, and that happens."
Even so, Miner felt the Tigers could have a chance at a win if he could hold the Orioles from that point. However, his downfall in the second inning came from walks, not hits. Though one of his three passes in the inning was intentional, the bases-loaded walk to Millar was not, and it signaled the end of his outing.
"It's kind of over before you realize it's started," Miner said.
Detroit's ensuing rally proved him right in his forecast. Casey Fossum retired the first six batters he faced, allowing the Tigers to take advantage of a wild performance from O's starter Garrett Olson to tie the game following a Gary Sheffield two-run single and a pair of RBI hits from Miguel Cabrera.
A pair of four-run rallies, however, put Baltimore ahead for good. Scott hit a three-run shot off Fossum (2-1), who took the loss, in the fourth before Mora doubled in two runs off Aquilino Lopez in the fifth. Huff followed with a two-run blast. Scott added a solo shot leading off the seventh for his second two-homer game against the Tigers this season.
"It's just a tough one all around," third baseman Brandon Inge said. "They barreled everything that they swung at today. I think a couple good pitches actually went into the stands, so it's one of those games you just have to put that one behind you pretty quickly."
The Tigers can put losses behind them well. Building momentum off of wins, however, has been difficult. After a 4-6 homestand, they don't have the momentum they were hoping for.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.