Willis roughed up as Tigers fall to O's
Lefty yields seven runs over five frames; offense struggles
BALTIMORE -- The Tigers' second successive defeat against a rookie Orioles pitcher boiled down to location, or lack thereof.
Dontrelle Willis didn't have it, and he paid for it. Baltimore slugger Luke Scott continued to manhandle his zone in the middle of the plate. And Camden Yards is fast turning into an unfriendly environment for the suddenly silent Tigers bats.
Willis' resurgence hit a roadblock Friday night in a 7-2 loss to the Orioles. The left-hander served up a pair of Scott homers, including a grand slam in a five-run third inning, and manager Jim Leyland watched his batters struggle against first-year right-hander Brad Bergesen.
"I think you don't know somebody and a lot of times they get ahead of us with strikes. You're not quite sure what to expect, and we swung at some balls," Leyland said. "When you take strikes and swing at balls, that usually spells disaster, and that's what happened to us."
Willis (1-2) had no trouble handling another rookie, Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, in his Major League debut, inducing a double-play flyout in the second, a comebacker to the mound in the third and a grounder to third in the fifth. Wieters finished 0-for-4, but he made a positive impression on Leyland, particularly with his approach at the plate.
"[Wieters] looked comfortable at the plate," Leyland said. "Obviously, he didn't get any hits tonight, but he's a top-notch prospect and I'm sure he'll get acclimated. I'm sure he'll do well."
But the rest of the Baltimore lineup battered Willis for seven runs on 10 hits in five innings. The left-hander, making his fourth start since coming off the disabled list following treatment of an anxiety disorder, walked two and struck out one.
"Early, I didn't have really good rhythm," Willis said. "I started to feel good at the end, but the damage was done by that point. You have to continue to battle, continue to make good pitches. But all in all, I just didn't play a good game today."
That was especially evident in the third, when the Orioles took a 5-0 lead. While Willis had fought his command from the outset -- allowing five baserunners over the first two innings -- it was still a scoreless game when a harmless one-out infield single by Brian Roberts opened the floodgates.
Adam Jones' single sent Roberts to third, and Nick Markakis followed with an RBI single for a 1-0 Orioles lead. Jones advanced to third on Markakis' hit, but was erased at home on Aubrey Huff's fielder's-choice grounder to third baseman Brandon Inge. One out from escaping a jam for a third straight inning, Willis imploded.
Melvin Mora's single to right loaded the bases, and Scott slammed a 2-2 slider over the wall in right for a grand slam and a 5-0 lead.
"My rhythm was still off, but you've got to make good pitches," Willis said. "Like [Leyland] said, I didn't have my good stuff, but you still got to battle. It's just one pitch that got away and he hit the ball good. That's what happens. When you're feeling good, you find a way to get the guy out."
So far this series, Detroit pitchers have struggled to do that against Scott, who added a solo homer, his 10th of the season, off Willis in the fifth. In three games since coming off the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury, Scott has homered five times and driven in 12 runs. In the first two games of a four-game series, Scott has four homers and nine RBIs against Detroit pitching.
"He's hot, he's feeling comfortable," Willis said of Scott. "I've yet to find a way to make the guy feel uncomfortable."
Leyland sensed Willis was fighting himself from the get-go, but hoped the lefty could take corrective action.
"I wouldn't say [Willis'] command was great, but his control wasn't bad," Leyland said. "He just didn't have good stuff. They whacked some balls pretty hard. His stuff wasn't there; it wasn't [a control issue]. ... He left more pitches up over the middle of the plate that were hittable."
While the Orioles were hitting Willis hard, the Tigers had trouble manufacturing offense against Bergesen, the second successive night they were thwarted by a rookie pitcher. Bergesen (2-2) tossed eight-plus innings, allowing just seven hits, as Baltimore won a season-high fifth consecutive game.
Magglio Ordonez singled in the first to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, but Bergesen retired the next 12 Tigers in order before Clete Thomas lined a single up the middle with two down in the fifth.
"It's a little different when you haven't seen guys. But we don't make excuses. We just didn't do good," Leyland said. "I was impressed with [Bergesen]. ... Good stuff, not overpowering. Good stuff, good life. He just went right at us."
Bergesen lost his shutout in the seventh, when Ordonez singled, Miguel Cabrera doubled and Curtis Granderson hit a run-scoring single to left. Inge followed with a 6-4-3 double-play grounder, scoring Cabrera. Bergesen exited in the ninth after Placido Polanco hit a leadoff double, and Ordonez followed with his third hit of the night.
But Jim Johnson came on in relief and got the next three hitters.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.