This time, there was no one-run loss to lament. It wasn't one at-bat or one pitch that resulted in another Sunday defeat, continuing a streak that grows more confounding by the week.
The Orioles were simply overpowered by a talented young pitcher who was on top of his game. On a steamy afternoon at Camden Yards, right-hander Justin Verlander finished one out shy of a complete game, limiting the Orioles to three hits in the Detroit Tigers' 5-1 victory before an announced 23,278.
It was the Orioles' 15th straight Sunday loss. Five of the past six have been by one run, but yesterday's outcome wasn't in doubt after the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the sixth off Brian Burres. From there, Verlander carried the Tigers to a split of the four-game series.
"From the first inning, you could see it," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "His location was down. When he got the called third strike on Nicky [Markakis] on the breaking ball, you knew he had that. He elevated his fastball. He moved it up and down. He was very good today."
The 2006 American League Rookie of the Year allowed an RBI double to Luke Scott in the second inning and then retired 16 straight before Kevin Millar's seventh-inning double. Verlander, 25, was removed in the ninth after walking Melvin Mora with two outs. Todd Jones walked Aubrey Huff before retiring Millar, thanks to a spectacular diving play by third baseman Brandon Inge, to end the game.
It was Verlander's sixth straight victory, and he has given up two earned runs or fewer in eight straight starts. It's a remarkable turnaround, considering that Verlander (8-9) started the season 1-7.
"I was wondering how he had such a high ERA coming into the game [4.15] with the way he threw today," Huff said. "That's the Verlander that I've seen in the past. He has such a big differential between his off-speed pitches and his fastball. It makes it tough to really sit on his fastball, then if he throws the off-speed pitch, it's tough to get to."
The Orioles (47-50) tried just about everything to break their Sunday skid. The organization announced a second installment of the "We Win, You Win" promotion, promising that with an Orioles victory, fans in attendance yesterday would receive two tickets to a home game.
The team also wore its orange warm-up jerseys, normally reserved for batting practice or road spring training games. But none of that mattered with the way Verlander toyed with the lineup. He looked vulnerable for a fleeting moment in the second inning, issuing a leadoff walk to Huff and a one-out double to Scott, who took third on the high throw home. Jay Payton then hit a hard ground ball right at shortstop Ramon Santiago. On the play, Scott got hung up between third and home, didn't see catcher Ivan Rodriguez drop Santiago's throw, and eventually was tagged out trying to scurry back to third. The next batter, Guillermo Quiroz, grounded out to end the inning.
"[Verlander] was nails after that point," Payton said.
Burres allowed a game-tying third-inning homer to Magglio Ordonez but no other hits heading into the sixth. In the inning, Marcus Thames homered, though the ball was initially called foul by third base umpire Brian Runge. A single by Ryan Raburn extended Detroit's lead to 3-1 and ended Burres' day.
The loss was Burres' first since June 1, a span of seven starts. For the Orioles, it was a much-too-familiar Sunday feeling. They now can empathize with the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks, who lost 15 straight Saturday games.
"It's crazy," Huff said. "It's one of those things. Baseball has a lot of weird streaks, and this is just another weird one. You just can't really figure it out."