Orioles 6, Tigers 2
The rally began when Detroit Tigers first baseman Chris Shelton fielded a ground ball from Rafael Palmeiro but stumbled trying to get to first base. Shelton, appearing to wade through quicksand, lunged toward the base, but Palmeiro, certainly not known for his speed, beat him to the bag. Shelton told Detroit reporters he simply slipped and could not get the ball out of his hand to throw to pitcher Mike Maroth, who was covering first.
The rally continued when Jay Gibbons, with two men on base, was fooled on a pitch by Maroth, but sent a nubber down the third base line that bounced foul at first then curved inside the line, and traveled all the way to the outfield for a double.
"I was swinging before the ball was even out of his hand," Gibbons said.
The Orioles, a team that has thrived this year because of the home run, instead used three infield singles in the fifth and seventh to beat Detroit, 6-2. Baltimore is 4-3 thus far on a 13-game road trip and three games ahead of the Boston Red Sox atop the AL East.
"I don't think we hit the ball hard once," Gibbons said. "Well, maybe once. We got fortunate today."
Several times this year Gibbons has seen well-hit drives caught by a lunging outfielder or a diving infielder. Twice this season, Detroit center fielder Nook Logan robbed Gibbons of potential home runs at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Gibbons will gladly take the double in the fifth, which scored Baltimore's first run of the game and put Chris Gomez in position to score the second run. Gibbons scored the go-ahead run on a groundout by Ramon Nivar. The final run of the inning scored on an infield single by Melvin Mora.
"It wasn't pretty," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "But sometimes you need those. It was a nickel-and-dime inning."
Neither Gibbons's double nor Palmeiro's single was the strangest hit of the day. Nivar, in the seventh inning, hit a slow ground ball that rolled foul on the first base side. As the ball continued to roll along the dirt it struck the grass and rolled back into fair territory. By that time Nivar was past Maroth and was able to reach first base safely. Nivar scored the Orioles' sixth and final run of the game.
Catcher Sal Fasano said in his days in Kansas City those types of innings were called "Royal Rallies," mostly because the light-hitting Royals had to manufacture runs. The Orioles seemingly should never have to.
"Everybody on this team hustles down the line and good things happen," Fasano said.
Three players in the Orioles' starting lineup on Sunday -- Nivar, Fasano and Napoleon Calzado -- were supposed to fill Class AAA Ottawa's lineup, not Baltimore's. But injuries continue to test the Orioles. Mazzilli felt compelled to give 40-year-old B.J. Surhoff the day off.
"I didn't even know half the guys that were in the starting lineup," Gibbons said.
It was difficult not to feel sorry for Maroth, who allowed just two earned runs in eight innings, but took the loss anyway.
"I can beat them," Maroth said. "I've done it before. I don't know. I pitch well against the team and somehow things just don't work out."
It appeared Baltimore's less-than-stellar lineup would not be able to support Daniel Cabrera, who gave up a two-run homer to Dmitri Young in the first inning and seemed headed toward another inconsistent outing. Fasano said Cabrera appeared "jumpy" in the first inning.
"It was a lot like he was trying to be perfect early," Fasano said.
Perhaps in a sign that he is gaining maturity with each start, Cabrera was not rattled by Young's home run. The young right-hander settled down and then pitched six scoreless innings. He allowed just those two runs and struck out four in seven innings.
"When you have a good sinker, you don't need to get strikeouts," Fasano said.
Perhaps most impressive: Cabrera did not walk a batter, the first time he can make that claim in his young major league career. He allowed the Orioles, who used four relievers in Saturday's loss, to rest the bullpen.
"The bullpen really needed a rest after [Saturday] night," Cabrera said.