A little of the starch left the Baltimore Orioles' resurgence last night, and one play was primarily responsible.
It came in the third inning, when a shot by Tony Phillips caromed off Orioles starter Bob Milacki's glove for a run-scoring hit, and Milacki's concentration went with it.
Lou Whitaker followed with a two-run homer, and left-hander Frank Tanana rode the resulting 3-0 lead to an 8-2 victory that denied the Orioles their first winning homestand of the season.
For the 23rd time this year, the Orioles were down by 3-0 or more before the fourth inning. Milacki said the ricochet off his glove "was the key to the whole game."
"It hit the glove, got a lot of it. I'm surprised it wasn't in it," Milacki said of Phillips' infield hit. "I lost my concentration for a minute. I shouldn't let stuff like that bother me."
Milacki then made the mistake of falling behind Whitaker, 3-1, in the count and compounded that by leaving a fastball up and in. Whitaker homered to right, and the Orioles never recovered.
It was only the fourth defeat in 12 games for the Orioles, whose recently resounding bats were stifled by Tanana, a 20-game winner against them in his career, which began in 1973.
"When you find yourself down by three runs early, it's tough on you," said Randy Milligan. "You can't be as aggressive as you normally would be."
The Orioles had a chance to get back into the game in the seventh after consecutive doubles by David Segui and Bob Melvin that resulted in their second run.
But Melvin made the final out at the plate when he tried to score on Cal Ripken's two-out single, failing to get there by several steps.
Mark Leiter held the Orioles in check the final two innings.
"We didn't make any errors or mental mistakes," Milligan said. "We just got beat."
Milacki had been superb in his previous two outings, beating the Cleveland Indians, 7-2, while going 8 2/3 innings and pitching a shutout at Royals Stadium, the Orioles' first 1-0 victory in five years. Both times Gregg Olson finished off the opposition.
But, last night, manager John Oates said, Milacki "was pitching behind a little bit. That's not what he's done lately. He got away with it the first couple of innings, but it caught up with him. He just felt he should've made that play [in the third]."
Milacki said: "I thought I had good stuff. But I tried to be too fine after that hit, and it didn't work. I thought I could hold them to three because I believed I had everything under control.
"It just didn't happen that way."
The Tigers added three in the sixth, driving out Milacki with a run-scoring single by ex-Oriole Mickey Tettleton, then scoring on a two-run single by Skeeter Barnes against Mark Williamson.
That gave Tanana a 6-1 cushion, and he went on to become the second Tiger to win consecutive decisions (Bill Gullickson is the other), on his 38th birthday.
"He has given us trouble the last couple of years," Oates said of Tanana. "That's the way he's always pitched, changing speeds and making it tough to sit on one pitch."
The Orioles scored in the fourth when Tanana briefly lost control, walked three hitters and allowed a sacrifice fly to Joe Orsulak.
They still had a chance in the seventh after consecutive doubles by David Segui and Melvin gave them a second run.
But Melvin, not the fastest Oriole, was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a single by Cal Ripken.
Former Oriole John Shelby made the throw, continuing his defensive superlatives against his old club.
The Orioles are 13-25 at home in their final season at Memorial Stadium.
They finished the homestand with a 3-3 record and will not return until July 19.