DETROIT -- The Perseid meteor storm was not visible from the stands at Tiger Stadium last night, so the crowd of 20,762 had to settle for another astronomical offensive performance by the home team.
The Detroit Tigers, who had pounded Ben McDonald into gator food and knocked Brad Pennington out of the major leagues the night before, also did a big number on Rick Sutcliffe and Anthony Telford in last night's 15-5 victory.
If anyone's counting, that's 30 runs in two nights, equaling a dubious club record for runs allowed in consecutive games set ** against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1978. That two-game debacle included the famous 24-10 loss at Exhibition Stadium. This time, the run production was distributed evenly.
It got so bad last night that the Orioles were forced to use catcher Jeff Tackett to pitch the eighth inning -- and his scoreless performance turned out to be the high point.
"That's not a very good sign when the only pitcher with no runs behind his name is a catcher," said manager Johnny Oates.
Maybe not, but Oates chose to accept the two blowouts for what they were, a couple of ugly losses that left the Orioles with eight victories in their last 10 games.
"We just won eight in a row," he said, "so you can't get all upset. They are a very good offensive club. You just put these two games behind you and go on to tomorrow."
For those who were channel surfing last night and wondering if they had stumbled on a replay of Tuesday night's game, it wasn't. That really was Dan Gladden hitting a grand slam in the third inning, just as he did in the fourth inning the night before. That really was the Tigers hitting back-to-back home runs again, just as they had in Tuesday's 15-1 victory.
The similarities were almost eerie. It was the second night in a row that Gladden accounted for the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth runs of the game, this time tying a major-league record with grand slams in two straight games. He drove in five runs in all as the Tigers pushed the Orioles 2 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East.
How did it happen? The same way it did the night before, of course. Sutcliffe, like McDonald before him, fell victim to a five-run inning and the bullpen could not do anything to help him. The Orioles pitching staff also equaled a season high for the second straight night by allowing four home runs.
The only difference last night was that it happened sooner. The Tigers batted around on Sutcliffe in the first inning to take a 5-1 lead.
So much for the notion that the veteran right-hander had left all his troubles behind him in July. Sutcliffe had put together three straight solid outings to wash away the bitter taste of that winless month, but the Tigers knocked him back a couple of weeks in just a few short minutes.
"He just didn't bring anything out of the bullpen with him," Oates said. "He just didn't have it tonight."
The Orioles had scored a run in the top of the first on an RBI double by Harold Baines, but the lead didn't last through two Detroit batters. Tony Phillips walked to lead off the bottom of the inning, then stole second before Gladden tied the game with a single to center.
That was just the beginning -- the beginning of the end. The Tigers loaded the bases on a single by Travis Fryman and a one-out walk to Mickey Tettleton before Kirk Gibson pulled a double down the right-field line for two more runs. Scott Livingstone, who had homered the night before, brought in the final two runs of the inning with a single to left.
"The first inning has been a problem for me all year, especially the last couple of months," Sutcliffe said. "They are swinging the bat well right now, but for some reason I had trouble getting the ball down. I'm just not getting away with anything."
Sutcliffe, who was pitching with a slight case of the flu, lasted two more batters. He got Chad Kreuter to pop out to left and then gave up a single to No. 9 hitter Chris Gomez.
Enter Telford, who had been called up earlier in the day to replace Pennington. He got out of the first inning and worked easily through the second, but looked a lot like Pennington in the third.
He got the first out of the inning, but gave up back-to-back singles to Livingstone and Kreuter and hit Gomez with a pitch to load the bases. One out later, Gladden jumped on an 0-1 pitch and drove it over the 365 sign in left-center field.
This one wasn't cheap. The night before, Gladden had reached out and poked a line drive down the right-field line that cleared the fence at the shallowest point in the ballpark, but this one was legit. And so it should have been, since he joined 12 other players -- including Babe Ruth and Brooks Robinson -- who have grand slammed in back-to-back games.
If that wasn't discouraging enough to Telford, Fryman followed Gladden and hit a bomb into the upper deck in left to push the score to 10-1. He certainly could relate to Pennington after that, since Alan Trammell and Livingstone had homered back-to-back Tuesday.
The Tigers kept pounding away. Kirk Gibson homered off Telford in the fourth inning and Tony Phillips hit a home run off right-hander Mark Williamson in the seventh.
Williamson had been sidelined for two days with a "knot" in his lower back, so Oates said that he would only be used in an emergency. This game apparently qualified, because Tackett followed him to the mound.
The Orioles finally answered back with a couple of home runs of their own -- Mike Devereaux in the sixth and Sherman Obando with two aboard in the eighth.