Down by three runs in the eighth inning, the Baltimore Orioles had every reason to believe they could rally against the Tigers.
Not only because the Orioles are capable of scoring in bunches, but more important, they were going up against Detroit’s leaky bullpen.
Delmon Young drove in three runs with a pinch-hit double, and Baltimore used a four-run eighth to pull out a 7-6 victory Friday for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five AL division series.
Baltimore will try for a sweep in Game 3 on Sunday at Detroit, when Miguel Gonzalez starts against the Tigers’ third straight Cy Young winner, David Price.
“It’s huge going into Detroit up 2-0,” said J.J. Hardy, who scored the go-ahead run with a sweeping slide. “We’ve got to go over there and do our job.”
A day after the Orioles battered Detroit relievers during an eight-run eighth that produced a 12-3 win, they pushed the Tigers to the brink of elimination with an uprising against the beleaguered duo of Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria — the primary victims Thursday night.
It was 6-3 with one out in the eighth when Chamberlain hit Adam Jones with a pitch and gave up a single to Nelson Cruz. Steve Pearce singled in a run, and the towel-waving, orange-wearing fans among the sellout crowd of 48,058 sensed another comeback win by a team that won 10 games during the regular season during its final at-bat.
Soria entered and walked Hardy to load the bases for Young, who lined the first pitch into the left-field corner.
“We did it yesterday, we’ve been doing it all year against teams in our own division,” Young said. “So any time we have an opportunity and get guys on, we think we can win.”
Young went 10 for 20 as a pinch-hitter during the regular season. He also was the AL championship series MVP in 2012 — for the Tigers — when they swept the Yankees.
“It’s very hard to sit around and not know where the consistent at-bats are coming,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “He has done the things that you need to do to give yourself a chance to be successful.”
In the top of the eighth, baserunning was a key point. Miguel Cabrera was thrown out at the plate when he tried to score right behind Torii Hunter on Victor Martinez’s double with no outs.
“I was watching the play develop and hoping they both would make it,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Zach Britton got three straight outs for the save.
Soria wound up with the loss, but Chamberlain took the blame.
“This one is on me. There’s no getting around it,” he said. “Obviously, if I don’t put us in that situation, then we’re having a different conversation.”
The defeat left Detroit’s bid to reach the ALCS for a fourth straight year in serious jeopardy. The Tigers wasted home runs by J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos, along with a solid start by Justin Verlander.
“We’re 0-2. We understand it,” Ausmus said. “It doesn’t really affect us playing Game 3. If you win Game 3, you go on to Game 4.”
Rooted on by girlfriend Kate Upton, Verlander left in the sixth with a 5-3 lead. Unless the Tigers stage a comeback, it was his last outing of the season.
“This is frustrating. This isn’t easy,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s walking out of this clubhouse feeling great, but you’ve got to stay positive. We win two games and the pressure is squarely back on these guys.”
Brad Brach got the win, getting two outs in the eighth after Kevin Gausman allowed one run and three hits in 3 2-3 innings.
Detroit trailed 2-0 before peeling off five straight hits against Wei-Yin Chen. Hunter singled, Cabrera doubled and Victor Martinez delivered an RBI single.
J.D. Martinez and Castellanos followed with consecutive home runs, the second day in a row that Detroit’s done it.
Chen lasted only three more batters in his shortest outing since June 28 and left down 5-2.
Baltimore got a run back in the bottom half with a two-out RBI single by Hardy, and the Orioles turned a 5-4-3 double play against Cabrera in the fifth that began with a diving stop by Ryan Flaherty.
Nelson Cruz led off the sixth with a single to chase Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez held the lead through the seventh.
After that, however, Detroit’s bullpen crumbled.
“Any time you can go into the eighth inning winning by three like that, you have all the confidence in the world with Joba going out there,” J.D. Martinez said. “But unfortunately it just didn’t happen today.”
The game started shortly after noon, and the boisterous crowd had plenty of enthusiasm left from the night before.
The volume decreased, however, after Verlander began mowing down a potent lineup that one night earlier banged out 12 hits in a lopsided victory.
He retired the first eight batters before Jonathan Schoop bounced a single up the middle. Nick Markakis then hit a 3-2 pitch off the roof of the grounds crew enclosure in right field.
A replay confirmed the drive as a home run, ending Verlander’s 32-inning scoreless streak in the ALDS. Markakis’ first homer off the right-hander in 50 career at-bats came on Verlander’s 50th pitch.