Orioles 7, Tigers 5
These Baltimore Orioles have suddenly turned into heart-stoppers. After four breathtaking games against playoff contender Boston this week, the Orioles appeared sluggish at times against the fourth-place Detroit Tigers on Friday.
But a team that has refused to end the season listlessly continues to produce in the clutch as Miguel Tejada's three-run home run in the ninth inning against Esteban Yan gave Baltimore a 7-5 victory.
"With a guy like Esteban Yan, you can't go looking anything but a fastball," said Tejada, who sent the drive over the center field wall. "That's why I swung early."
Three of the Orioles' games this week have been decided in the last at-bat.
Orioles starter Bruce Chen had helped put the crowd into a slumber by allowing five runs in 52/3 innings. At 27, Chen's status as a prime prospect is long past. At one point he carried the same luster as Daniel Cabrera, Erik Bedard and Matt Riley, but inconsistency shuffled the left-hander through nine organizations in his six-year career.
He had to be almost flawless if he was to figure into the Orioles' plan for next season. He was given a 3-0 lead in the first inning against former Oriole Jason Johnson on singles by Tejada and Javy Lopez. Chen faltered in the fifth, allowing a run-scoring single to Marcus Thames, a run-scoring double to Omar Infante, an RBI groundout to Brandon Inge and an RBI single to Ivan Rodriguez. In the sixth, Chen allowed a solo home run to Carlos Pena. But Orioles relievers Todd Williams and John Parrish pitched 31/3 innings of scoreless relief.
"We've been throwing a lot on their shoulders," Baltimore Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "They continue to respond great."
After the three-run first, the Orioles' offense turned feeble against Johnson, who struck out eight in 62/3 innings. It was not the fault of Melvin Mora, Tejada and Lopez, who combined for five singles, two doubles, two walks, two home runs and seven RBI.
"The middle of the order, we count on them," Mazzilli said. "They all came through for us."
Baltimore rallied in the ninth with a leadoff single by David Newhan and a walk by Mora. Then Tejada, who in his first season in Baltimore has produced MVP-type numbers -- a .311 average with 31 home runs and 138 RBI -- provided the defining drive.
"If we played good baseball at the beginning of the year, we would be close to the Red Sox and Yankees," Tejada said. "I think next year we're going to be okay. I think the owner is going to believe we are a good team and give us whatever we need to make us better."
Orioles Notes: Jorge Julio struck a deal with the commissioner's office and on Friday began serving his four-game suspension for throwing at the head of Minnesota Twins infielder Augie Ojeda. As part of the deal, the $1,000 fine was revoked. Julio was scheduled to meet with league disciplinarians Bob Watson and John McHale next week, but instead the reliever said he received a phone call from the league office offering him a deal: Accept the four games without a fine, or have the suspension reduced by one game but with a fine. When Julio couldn't get the entire suspension lifted, he decided to accept the four games.