A day after the Detroit Tigers bullpen imploded in Game 1, the same cast of relievers was again responsible for an eighth-inning meltdown that sent the Orioles on the road with a 7-6 win and a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series.
"It's certainly a little tough to swallow," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "When you have a three-run lead going into the last couple of innings, you feel like you should get the job done. But we didn't."
The Tigers bullpen returns to Comerica Park after a disastrous two-day stretch in which it allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in 3 2/3 innings in relief of former Cy Young Award winners Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who also had issues with the Orioles' hitters.
In the first two games of the ALDS, the Orioles have scored 12 of their 19 runs in the eighth inning.
Right-hander Anibal Sanchez pitched two perfect innings in relief Friday after an injury-plagued August and September. But relievers Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria, and Phil Coke combined to throw 1 2/3 innings in the two games with all five runners they inherited crossing the plate.
Closer Joe Nathan, who came on in the second half and saved 35 games, is rested after not being used in the first two games of the ALDS. So is Al Albuquerque, a hard throwing, middle-inning right-hander who led the team with 72 appearances and a 2.51 ERA in 57 1/3 innings.
Ausmus said he would need Saturday's day off to decide how to restructure his bullpen.
"I don't know that I necessarily have an answer for that, but if we have a lead in the eighth inning on Sunday, we're going to have to find somebody," Ausmus said after the game.
Chamberlain, who brought out the Tigers' lineup card before the game, seemed primed to leave Game 1 behind him. Barely 16 hours earlier, he left the eighth inning without retiring a batter and was charged with two runs (one earned) as part of the Orioles' eight-run eighth.
Chamberlain was greeted Friday by the announced sellout crowd at Camden Yards as a returning hero, though he said he didn't notice the reception. He was introduced over the public address system, the fans roared, and he appeared to tip his cap to them, though Chamberlain said he was just adjusting it — the only time he did so all through his warm-up pitches.
The former New York Yankees pitcher retired Alejandro De Aza and tried to work inside against Adam Jones after him. The second pitch to Jones was too far in, and the Orioles center fielder took first base after he was hit by the pitch.
"I think it all started when we got a base runner, when Jonesy got on base, you started to feel the momentum shifting a little bit," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said of the rally.
Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce both singled off Chamberlain, the latter scoring Jones. Chamberlain left discouraged, and though he doesn't feel he made bad pitches, he put the loss on himself.
"If I don't put us in that situation, Soria doesn't have to come in in that situation," Chamberlain said. "Obviously, this one's on me, and I'll wear it."
Soria was dealing with his own baggage from Thursday night's loss. Then, too, he entered after Chamberlain, and retired one of the five batters he faced. The other four eventually scored.
"Last night, they just went out there and ambushed me," Soria said. "They were swinging at the first pitch. They know I don't walk too many people, so they came out swinging."
The two-time All-Star entered Game 2 with a pair of Chamberlain's runners on base, and loaded the bases with an uncharacteristic walk to Hardy. All three runners scored on Delmon Young's game-winning, bases-clearing double.
Soria knew Young was a first-pitch fastball hitter from his days with the Kansas City Royals, and he threw a slider to combat it. Young drove it to the left-field wall to give the Orioles a lead that their bullpen would not surrender.
"This is a time when a day off might be the right timing for us, to kind of get away from it and give ourselves some more time to let this one fade away," Nathan said. "Sometimes, some games take a little bit longer to take the sting out."