— It was another opportunity for the Orioles to start feeling sorry for themselves, to remember all the miscues, like the one young catcher Matt Wieters just made, that often multiplied earlier in the season and resulted in lopsided losses.
A two-run, sixth-inning lead vanished when Wieters dropped Johnny Damon's foul pop-up, prolonging the at-bat long enough for Damon to walk. Orioles starter Kevin Millwood then slipped as he was delivering a pitch to Miguel Cabrera, who promptly lined it over the left-field wall to forge a tie.
Instead of folding, the Orioles continued to flip the script from the first four months of the season, scoring the game's final three runs and getting some clutch work out of the bullpen to post a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 28,575 last night at Comerica Park.
"There's a lot of competitive fire flowing around right now," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, whose team won for the 10th time in 12 series openers under him, is now 22-14 overall under Showalter and broke a five-game losing streak at Comerica Park. "We don't dwell on the negative inning. They turn the page and realize the other team is pretty good too and they're trying to accomplish the same things as we are.
"You play so many games and there are so many opportunities through the course of a game where you can get a snowball moving one way or the other. The negativity and the positive vibe can get flowing if you just give it a chance and don't dwell on things."
Two innings after his error, Wieters redeemed himself by hitting a sacrifice fly to deep right field off tough lefty Phil Coke to break the 3-3 tie. The next batter, Adam Jones, hit an RBI single and then Brian Roberts added a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning.
"It's a relief to get the win," said Wieters who misplayed his second foul pop-up in less than a week. "It's frustrating that I missed that pop-up and for Kevin not to get that win. But it's something where it shows a lot for this team where we're able to come back, get guys on base and keep fighting. We were able to get the win and that's the most important thing."
The Orioles bullpen made sure of that, throwing three scoreless innings, backed by Koji Uehara's perfect ninth to pick up his eighth save. Pitching in his first big league game in over a month, David Hernandez delivered the most clutch performance after he allowed a leadoff triple to rookie Austin Jackson with the game tied in the bottom of the seventh.
Hernandez struck out Will Rhymes for the first out, and then retired Damon on a pop-out to shortstop Cesar Izturis for the second out. The Orioles opted to intentionally walk Cabrera, who had driven in all three of the Tigers' runs and leads the American League in RBIs, before Hernandez struck out Ryan Raburn to end the inning.
"I just tried to go out there and not mess things up. I didn't want this to be my first outing back and get a loss," said Hernandez who was on the disabled list from Aug. 5 to Sept. 6 with a sprained left ankle. "After giving up the triple, I was able to throw some quality pitches to three pretty good hitters. It was deflating for Detroit, I would think. I was just able to get key outs at tough times."
Much of the pre-game talk centered on home plate umpire Jim Joyce's first series back in Detroit since his call at first base cost last night's starter Armando Galarraga a perfect game June 2 against the Cleveland Indians. Both Galarraga and Joyce said in the days leading up to the game that their reunion was no big deal, and that's exactly how it played out.
A couple of cameras flashed when Galarraga threw his first pitch with Joyce standing behind Tigers catcher Alex Avila, but there was little interaction between the umpire and pitcher and Joyce's presence was really never acknowledged by the Comerica Park crowd.
"It's going to happen more times that he's behind the plate [when I pitch]," Galarraga said. "I don't want to make a big deal out of it, and I'm sure he doesn't want to make a big deal out of it. He showed he's a professional. He's one of the best."
Galarraga pitched seven solid innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits and two walks. He left an 0-1 fastball letter-high to Jake Fox in the fifth inning and the Orioles' seldom-used outfielder drove it into the left-field seats.
Fox, who went to college at the University of Michigan and had a handful of friends and family in the crowd, hadn't started a game since Aug. 29 and had just one at-bat all month and that was back on Sept. 1. However, Showalter gave him the start because he entered the night 4-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs off Galarraga.
"There are some games where I feel like I've taken good swings on good pitches and haven't gotten the results," said Fox who went 2-for-4 and set up another Orioles' run with his leadoff double in the ninth. "Today was one of those days were I got the results."
Fox's two-run homer in the fifth gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead and the score stayed that way until Cabrera followed Wieters' gaffe by launching his 34th home run. The Orioles, however, didn't let that sequence ruin their night.
"I think winning ballgames gives you some confidence and when you got confidence, it's easy to have those kinds of innings when you come back," said Millwood who allowed three runs (two earned) over six innings. "I think that's the biggest difference. We're playing with more confidence now."