Last offseason, the Orioles thought they had a legitimate shot to land free agent Victor Martinez before he eschewed their offer for a four-year, $48 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.
The Orioles came a few million dollars short in December, and a run short on Friday, when Martinez slapped a game-winning single in the bottom of the 11th to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory.
"That's why they went out and gave him a contract and the obligation they did, to hit in that situation," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "And it worked real well for them."
The Orioles had won eight of 10 coming in -- all against contenders -- and three straight. But that was snapped when Martinez singled down the left-field line against rookie reliever Zach Phillips. Pinch-runner Danny Worth scored the winner, which was set up by a leadoff walk issued by Willie Eyre (2-2).
It ended the bullpen's 152/3 scoreless inning streak -- which dates back to Monday's loss to the Boston Red Sox.
"Our bullpen has been great, the last -something innings, and they come up [and] give one run up," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. "I'll take that any day of the week."
The Orioles (66-91) had a legitimate chance to win in the top of the 11th when Markakis doubled and Vladimir Guerrero drew a rare walk. But Matt Wieters hit into a double play in which first baseman Miguel Cabrera made a nice pick to grab Wieters' smash before throwing to second.
"Cabrera made a great play. That's the things he brings other than offense. That's a tough double play to turn," Showalter said. "But we had some other options, other situations."
Adam Jones followed with an inning-ending groundout against reliever Ryan Perry (1-0).
The three-hour, 17-minute marathon was tight all night, with the clubs exchanging the lead until it knotted at 3-3 in the fifth.
Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello allowed three runs in seven innings, but the 14-game winner wasn't particularly sharp. He scattered nine hits in his first five innings, before retiring his final seven batters.
Twice, the Orioles had runners cut down on the basepaths -- Vladimir Guerrero trying to get to third on an RBI double in the first and Markakis during a bizarre play in the fifth.
With a runner on and no outs, Markakis hit a grounder to second baseman Ramon Santiago, who threw to second for the first out. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta's relay throw sailed past first base and was retrieved by Tigers catcher Alex Avila.
Markakis, running down the first-base line, took a slight step toward second before jogging back toward first, where he was tagged out by Cabrera. Markakis and Showalter argued the call, but first base umpire Angel Campos ruled that Markakis' brief move was enough for him to be in play for the tag out.
"It was just kind of a reaction play, no intent on going to second base," Markakis said. "I talked to [Campos] after the inning and he saw one thing and he said I made an attempt to go to second and I guess that's all that really matters. And it's over with."
It may have been costly, because Guerrero followed with a single to right.
With his double and single, the 36-year-old Guerrero now has 2,585 hits in his career. That's one shy of tying Julio Franco for most by a Dominican Republic native.
The Orioles scored two more against the 22-year-old Porcello to take the lead in the third. Markakis had a sacrifice fly and Wieters an RBI single.
The Tigers tied it in the fifth on Santiago's RBI single. It was Detroit's first run against Alfredo Simon since the first inning when Cabrera crushed a 96-mph fastball 418 feet to left field. The two-run shot was Cabrera's 27th homer of the season.
The Orioles chose to pitch to Cabrera with a runner on third and two outs, instead of intentionally walking him to face Martinez. And Cabrera, a perennial MVP candidate, came up big. Showalter said he didn't really consider walking Cabrera.
"No, not that early," he said. "There is always thought to it, but you have Victor sitting there. And quite frankly, Avila is not a very good option either behind him. Jimmy [Leyland] has a lot of great weapons that he uses. And when you pay the kind of money that they pay for those two guys, they get that type of return. And Victor is the perfect guy to sit there behind Cabrera."
Simon didn't have many clean innings, but kept the American League Central champions in check through eight, tying his career-high longest outing. He first set the personal best in Minnesota on Aug. 23, the last time Simon has won a game. He is 0-3 with three no-decisions since.
"It's a little tough, but I understand sometimes I throw a good game and I don't get a lot of support with runs in the game," said Simon, who allowed three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out five. "But I feel happy because I threw a really good game and that team is in the playoffs and they have a good lineup. That happens sometimes, not a lot of support, not a lot of runs tonight, but I still feel great."
Notes: LHP Troy Patton was activated from the restricted list Friday. He had to leave Thursday to attend a court-appointed class in Texas, a result of his offseason DUI arrest. … Heading into Friday the Orioles had won eight of their past 10 games. They hadn't gone 8-2 in any 10-game stint since Sept. 28 2010 to April 4, 2011. … Mark Reynolds struck out twice Friday and now has 187 strikeouts with five games to play. He has struck out 200 or more times in the past three seasons, but will not lead the majors in whiffs. Earlier this week, Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs joined Reynolds as the only other player in big league history to record 200 strikeouts in a season.
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