DETROIT -- What the Orioles are finding out is something that has become increasingly obvious over the past six weeks. There aren't any percentages working in their favor these days.
Manager Johnny Oates has more than enough firsthand knowledge of that fact, so yesterday he resorted to logic. But that didn't work either as two-out singles in the eighth inning by Alan Trammell and Rob Deer gave the Tigers a 5-3 win over the Orioles.
On a day when the bullpen was taxed beyond its limit when starter Arthur Rhodes was a late scratch because of a knee injury, reliever Alan Mills (0-3) deserved a better fate. But after retiring 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced, a walk to Kirk Gibson proved to be the right-hander's undoing.
With a strong wind, which was costly to both teams earlier in the game, blowing from left field to right field, Mills might have been a little too cautious with Gibson, who has six home runs. "In that situation," he said later, "you don't want to give him anything to pull."
Mickey Tettleton was the next hitter, and despite a .214 average, the slugging switch-hitter's eight home runs represented the same threat as Gibson. On the first pitch, Gibson stole second base, forcing Oates to make a decision.
He didn't hesitate, ordering an intentional walk to Tettleton after another ball. The move quickly backfired as Trammell lined a single to center field, his third hit of the game, scoring Gibson to unravel a 3-3 tie.
Todd Frohwirth replaced Mills and Deer greeted him with another single to provide the insurance run before Brad Pennington got Milt Cuyler to end the inning by grounding out.
"I know that Trammell is a veteran hitter," said Oates, "but in that situation I'd rather start fresh with him than pitch to Mickey with the count 2-and-0."
Had the circumstances been more favorable for the Orioles, Mills wouldn't have faced Trammell. Right-hander Mark Williamson was pressed into service as the emergency starter and pitched the first 3 2/3 innings, and Frohwirth had worked a long 1 2/3 innings in Friday night's 4-3 loss.
"I didn't want to use him [Frohwirth] today. That's the reason Alan got [to face] the extra hitter," said Oates.
The way the game started, it appeared the Orioles' makeshift lineupwould be overmatched by left-hander David Wells. Oates had determined a few days ago that he would hold Brady Anderson out of the lineup for the first time this year, and he was replaced by Jack Voigt in left field. Oates also inserted catcher Jeff Tackett and designated hitter Sherman Obando for the slumping Chris Hoiles (.222 ) and Glenn Davis (.172)
Wells was perfect for 4 1/3 innings until Leo Gomez took advantage of the prevailing breezes to hit his fifth homer of the year into the upper deck in the fifth inning. Wells ultimately left in the seventh, when the Orioles scored twice to tie the score.
The wind also played a big role when the Tigers scored two runs in the second inning, when pop flies by Tettleton and Deer fell between second baseman Harold Reynolds and right fielder Mark McLemore. "On the first one, I just lost it," said Reynolds. "It kept drifting, I couldn't get under it and then I lost it in the sun. I was hoping Mark [McLemore] could pick me up. I couldn't believe I got my glove on it because I didn't see it."
In between the pair of wind-aided hits, Trammell hit a long drive to left that the wind kept in the park, but it fell for a double when Voigt was unable to make a jumping catch against the fence. "That was an ugly inning, but I felt sorry for those guys," said Williamson. "It was a case where the conditions really came into play."
The Tigers added another run two innings later, and this one wasn't pretty either. It came after a one-out walk to Gibson, Tettleton's second bloop hit, a single by Trammell and a sacrifice fly by Deer to shallow center field that blew away from Damon Buford, preventing him from setting up to make the throw.
The elements seemed to even out matters when the Orioles tied the score in the seventh. McLemore grounded a single through the middle with one out and Cal Ripken followed with a single to left.
After Gomez flied out, Obando singled to center to make it 2-1 and then David Segui arched a pop fly to short right field that blew out of the reach of second baseman Lou Whitaker and Deer, playing right field.
However, as was the case the night before when they made a ninth-inning comeback to tie the score, the Orioles couldn't put the Tigers away. The loss was their fourth in a row, dropping their overall record to 13-21 and leaving them 8 1/2 games behind the division leaders.
Even at this early stage of the season that deficit is beginning to take on an insurmountable look.