DETROIT - The Orioles' schedule will allow manager Dave Trembley to make a move that the organization's lack of pitching depth prevented him from making days ago - pulling Dennis Sarfate from the rotation and sending him back to the bullpen.
With three days off during the next 2 1/2 weeks, Trembley has the luxury of skipping the fifth spot in the rotation, meaning last night's start was Sarfate's last for the foreseeable future. The converted reliever showed some improvement but not nearly enough to warrant a longer look in the rotation. He was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning of the Orioles' 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 41,727 at Comerica Park.
The defeat ended the Orioles' modest three-game winning streak. The Orioles (59-63) will need to win today to take the series and post a winning road trip.
"Whatever I have to do ... it really doesn't matter," said Sarfate, who allowed four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, the longest outing of his career. "I just want to pitch and hopefully get better. If I can get something out of this season and get better for next season, that's a positive. I'm not going to sit here and try and think if I'm a starter or not. I'm just looking forward to the next opportunity to go out and pitch."
Pitching more relaxed and throwing more strikes, Sarfate surrendered six hits, including two home runs, walked three and threw two wild pitches. He was removed from the game after issuing a two-out, bases-loaded walk to Gary Sheffield in the fifth. In four starts, Sarfate has gone 0-2 with a 10.34 ERA and allowed 19 hits and 14 walks over 15 2/3 innings.
"This is a big step in the right direction for me," Sarfate said. "You have to look back on the positives. You can't sit here and be negative the whole time. The last three, I've had some pretty rough ones, but tonight I'm going to take the positives out of it."
The Tigers took the lead for good in the fourth inning when Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen homered within two at-bats. Detroit's beleaguered bullpen then survived some tenuous moments in relief of an effective Justin Verlander, who beat the Orioles for the second time in a month.
An Orioles team that had scored 22 runs and pounded out 31 hits the previous two nights was held to four hits and two unearned runs by Verlander over six innings. The right-hander, 25, is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four career starts against the Orioles. This season, he's 2-0 against them and has allowed just seven hits in 14 2/3 innings. His two victories over the Orioles this season bookend a stretch in which Verlander lost four straight games, giving up five earned runs or more in each of them.
"I can't explain why he's getting hit," Orioles designated hitter Aubrey Huff said. "I don't get it."
After Verlander's pitch count drove him from the game after six innings, the Orioles rallied in the seventh, putting runners on first and third bases with no outs against Francis Beltran. But they managed just one run on Brian Roberts' double play, cutting their deficit to two runs.
In the eighth, the Orioles had men on first and third with two outs, but Jay Payton was called out on a close play at first. Payton slammed his helmet to the ground before sprinting toward first base umpire Kevin Causey, earning an immediate ejection, his third of the season. He declined to comment after the game, but Trembley said, "Whether the guy was safe or out, I thought Kevin Causey called the play way too soon."
Fernando Rodney retired Nick Markakis on a groundout with Roberts on first to end the game.
"You can't fault the offense with the way we swung the bat, the way we've come back," Trembley said. "We had a chance, and we just came up short."