By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
8:02 PM EDT, April 4, 2014
DETROIT — On Friday, the Orioles had to deal with a 1 a.m. flight, fewer than five hours of sleep, and a day game played in a brittle cold and persistent rain against a Detroit Tigers lineup that featured baseball’s best hitter, Miguel Cabrera.
The outcome was about as ugly as the Orioles’ schedule, and about as predictable as a Camden Yards crowd’s yelling “O” during the national anthem. The Tigers pounded the Orioles, 10-4, at Comerica Park in a game twice delayed by rain.
“What else would you expect? After the night we had last night, it wasn’t going to be easy,” Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said Friday. “That’s the beautiful thing about it. We get a chance to do it again [Saturday]. Obviously, we looked a little flat today. … They pretty much took it to us.”
After playing at home Thursday night, a 4-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox, then waiting for their charter plane to arrive in Baltimore after weather problems arose elsewhere, the Orioles didn’t get to Detroit until after 3 a.m. and didn’t settle at the team hotel until about 4. Most players were in the clubhouse by about 10:30 a.m. for the scheduled 1:08 p.m. first pitch.
“It’s a challenge. Honestly, they don’t consult us with start times and don’t have to. That’s what we do. We play games,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We all have challenges. Some clubs won’t have the same ones that we do right now. But hopefully, down the road, it will work in our favor. But that’s an excuse if you choose to use it, and we won’t.”
The Orioles (1-3) now have dropped three straight since winning on Opening Day. They’ve been outscored by a combined 21-11 in those four games.
“I’ll chalk this one up to the challenges that hopefully we won’t face every day,” Showalter said. “But the Tigers are a pretty good club, obviously.”
The one Oriole who was well rested dealt with his own nightmare Friday. The Orioles sent right-handed starter Miguel Gonzalez to Detroit on Thursday evening so that he could avoid the night’s anticipated travel delays.
It didn’t matter.
Gonzalez struggled from the beginning with the cold, the rain and his command in what was one of his worst outings as a big leaguer. The 29-year-old right lasted just 3 1/3 innings — the second-shortest start of his career — and gave up a career-high-tying seven earned runs. He had done that just twice before, most recently Aug. 30, 2013, at Yankee Stadium.
“He really didn’t have his breaking ball. He really didn’t have much of anything,” catcher Steve Clevenger (Mount St. Joseph) said. “He just tried to battle through it.”
With the Orioles up 2-0 in the second, Gonzalez allowed three runs on two doubles, a single and a walk. He also hit two batters and was handed a break when the Tigers committed a base-running error. Gonzalez escaped a bases-loaded jam by getting reigning two-time American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera to fly out.
“It was pretty tough, hitting two guys and walking one. That’s not my role,” said Gonzalez, whose ERA is 18.90. “Weather is going to affect me and the other guys. You just have to keep going out there and do your thing.”
The start of play was postponed for 10 minutes and for another 30 minutes in the bottom of the fourth, with two runners on and no outs. Gonzalez, who had 61 pitches at that point, went to throw in the inside cage and came back after the delay. He immediately gave up a three-run homer to Rajai Davis. Torii Hunter followed two batters later with a solo shot, chasing Gonzalez. He had plunked Davis and Hunter in their previous at-bats, during the second inning.
“We know what we are going to get from Gonzo. Wasn't his best outing, but we try to take the positives out of it,” Chris Davis said. “I don’t think anybody wanted to play in those conditions, but we had to do it.”
The Tigers (3-0) collected 17 total hits. They scored three more times against the Orioles’ bullpen, including a two-run homer in the eighth by Cabrera — the 2,000th hit of his career — off reliever Ryan Webb, who was in his second inning of work.
Webb’s first inning Friday was perfect; it was just the second time in 35 innings this season an Orioles pitcher did not allow a base runner in an inning.
It’s not just Orioles pitchers who are struggling early.
Davis had a two-run double in the first against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, who pitched four innings and didn’t return after the second rain delay. The Orioles managed just one hit after that — a fifth-inning single by Steve Lombardozzi — until they scored twice against Joba Chamberlain in the ninth.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz singled, Clevenger tripled him home and third baseman Jonathan Schoop added an RBI single before Chamberlain recorded the final three outs.
The four runs are the most the supposedly high-powered Orioles have scored this season. Cruz, a newcomer, is the only player to have homered for a club that led the majors in long balls in 2013. When three of the first four Orioles batters reached base Friday, it looked as if the offense was about to break out.
And then their bats, unlike most of the Orioles’ players Friday morning, went to sleep.
“I thought we were good. And then we had a rain delay. And then there was some more rain. And then it went from kind of being cold to really cold. There was some more rain. There’s a common theme here,” Davis said. “It’s just one of those games where you knew the odds were stacked against you going into it, but you still got to go out there and compete. … We’ll look to give them heck tomorrow.”
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