The Orioles know that sometimes, it takes left hander Wei-Yin Chen a while to get comfortable on the hill. They also know that, while he may struggle early, that just leaves a lot of game left with which to mount a nice comeback. Sunday’s comeback wasn’t just a nice one, though. This was a down-five-in-the-rubber-match-against-a-fellow-playoff-challenger-and-one-of-their-better-pitchers comeback, and a 7-5 O’s win in Detroit.
Chen (W, 12-7) fell behind 5-0 before he could record his second out. Omar Infante hit a one-out, solo home run (11) to start the trouble. Chen walked Miguel Cabrera. He gave up a single to Prince Fielder, and up stepped Jhonny Peralta. Chen fell behind the Tigers shortstop 2-0 before serving a 91 MPH fastball on the outer half. Peralta, not known as a power guy, showed plenty of pop, driving it deep to right center for a three-run homer (9), and a 4-0 Tigers lead. Delmon Young followed the Peralta homer with a single to right, and scored on a Jeff Baker double, making it 5-0.
The Orioles certainly didn’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. In their half of the second, Chris Davis blasted a long home run (20) to the opposite field leading off, and it was 5-1. Mark Reynolds singled, but Detroit starter Doug Fister (L, 7-8) struck out Manny Machado, and got Omar Quintanilla on a force out. Taylor Teagarden, in what would turn out to be an enormous at-bat, drew a six-pitch walk, moving Quintanilla to second, and turning the lineup over to Nick Markakis.
The Orioles right fielder delivered his 23rd double of the year, scoring Quintanilla and sending Teagarden to third. JJ Hardy was next. Hardy has been doing a much better job recently of going with the outside pitches, especially the hard stuff. But on 1-2, Fister lollipopped a curve on the outside, and Hardy went out and hooked it in to left for another Orioles double. Teagarden and Markakis both scored, and the Orioles had closed the gap to just one, at 5-4.
That’s where things would stay until the top of the fourth. Quintanilla and Teagarden both struck out to start the inning. But the Orioles would pick up another crucial walk, from Markakis. Then yet another, from Hardy. That brought up Nate McLouth.
Fister, using offspeed stuff, picked up two quick strikes on the O’s left fielder. Fister tried to get him with a curve down and away. But McLouth reached out and drove it into the right-center field gap. Markakis and Hardy both scored on the triple, giving the O’s their first lead of the day. Two pitches later, McLouth trotted home on Adam Jones’ single to right, and the Orioles led 7-5.
Chen had settled in, but high pitch counts early meant his stay in the game would not be deep. He was pulled after five innings, with—considering his first inning struggles—a pretty good line: 7H, 5ER, 2BB, 4K, 2HR. The bullpen, as usual, slammed the door, with four shutout innings. Luis Ayala, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson combined to allow two hits, and strike out three. Johnson picked up his 37th save. While his inning was perfect, it was not without drama.
With two outs, Infante stepped to the plate. He worked Johnson into a 3-1 count, with O’s killer Miguel Cabrera on deck, and Prince Fielder behind him. Johnson, Buck Showalter, heck, ALL of Orioles Nation wanted no part of Cabrera, who would have represented the tying run, given the chance to bat in the ninth. But Johnson came back strong in the at-bat, getting a called strike two, before retiring Infante on a bouncer to Machado at third.
The O’s head to Texas to battle the Rangers in a three-game series starting Monday night. Miguel Gonzalez (5-2, 3.38) takes on Ryan Dempster (6-6, 3.12 overall. 1-1, 8.31 since coming to Texas from the Cubs. First pitch: 8:05.
- The Orioles put together a terrific series after dropping game 1 in Detroit. They now move 2 games up on the Tigers in the wildcard hunt.
- Chen continues to impress. Even after the Tigers put up a five spot on him, he kept his composure and kept his team in it.
- O’s pitching held the killer combo of Cabrera and Fielder to 1/6, 2R, 2BB, 2K, 6LOB.
- Markakis, McLouth, and Reynolds each picked up two hits. Markakis and Reynolds were on base three times.
- Davis’ homer to left is another good sign. When he makes contact, the ball jumps off of his bat, maybe more so than any of his teammates. The homer Sunday was another example of a ball that just never seemed to want to land.
- Numbers 7, 8 and 9 in the order—Machado, Quintanilla, Andino (who pinch hit for Quintanilla), and Teagarden were a combined 0/10.