Orioles recap: Late homer sends Tigers past Birds, 4-3

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
The Orioles opened their series in Detroit with a loss.

Victor Martinez led off the eighth with a home run off Brad Brach, and the Orioles’ comeback at Comerica Park on Friday night went for naught.

The Detroit Tigers opened the critical weekend series with a 4-3 win over the Orioles, drawing even with them for the second American League wild card.

“I tend more to give Victor Martinez credit,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s been doing that to a lot of guys. Brad’s a good pitcher.”

“He’s been doing it for a long time,” Brach said. “It was 96 mph and up a little bit. You just can’t make mistakes like that to a hitter like him.”

The Orioles fell to 76-64, slipping three games out of first place in the AL East after the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays. Brach (8-3) now has a 4.67 ERA over his past 18 appearances after allowing the eventual winning run.

Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman gave them a quintessential “grind-it-out” start, but the Tigers struck three times off him to put the Orioles on the back foot. Right fielder J.D Martinez scored on a double by third baseman Erick Aybar in the third inning, and Martinez plated a pair with a bases-loaded, two-out single in the fifth.

Better late than never

There wasn’t much happening for the Orioles offensively against rookie Michael Fulmer, who is flirting with the American League ERA crown, until second baseman Jonathan Schoop smacked a one-out, two-run home run over the Tigers bullpen in left field to cut the score to 3-2 in the sixth inning.

That was all the Orioles would get off Fulmer, but the notorious Tigers bullpen made it a game again. Left fielder Hyun Soo Kim legged out a bloop double to left field with one out in the eighth, then gave way to pinch runner Michael Bourn, who scored on Adam Jones' single to level the score at 3.

“Every run you score is important,” Schoop said. “I hit a home run, and then Jonsey tied the game, but they got one more run than us.”

Also, the Orioles bullpen

The Orioles’ bullpen plan seemed to change frequently as the game progressed. In the fifth inning, it was Tommy Hunter warming up. He sat down for Mychal Givens when Gausman returned for the sixth inning, and Givens ended up pitching a scoreless seventh.

After Givens, closer Zach Britton was up to get work and presumably pitch the eighth inning with a one-run deficit. Jones' RBI single meant Brach got up quickly to pitch the eighth, but he allowed the decisive home run to Martinez to put Detroit back ahead.

Kim robbed twice

With the Orioles waiting for their first moments of life at the plate in the third inning, Kim was twice denied a positive — one small and one large. Kim began trotting down to first base after a 3-1 pitch that was a full ball outside, but was deemed a strike by home plate umpire Joe West, the cowboy himself. On the next pitch, Kim sent left fielder Justin Upton to the wall, but Upton reached over the yellow home run line to record the inning’s final out.

Wake up, Mr. West

West’s strike zone was a particular shade of perplexing Friday, as he essentially abandoned the low strike and shaved a full ball off the bottom of the plate for both team’s pitchers.

“I mean it’s tough,” Gausman said. “There’s only one guy who can make that call, and that’s him. As much as you can be mad about it, he was the same way for the other guy. You’ve just got to keep grinding and make quality pitches.”

A different kind of laser for Trumbo

Right fielder Mark Trumbo is used to hitting lasers over the outfielder’s heads, but instead launched one from the outfield grass in the third inning Friday. Trumbo settled under a fly ball by Martinez, stepped and threw a dart to catcher Matt Wieters to end the inning, who tagged Ian Kinsler out at home.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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