BALTIMORE — The Orioles’ offense received the wake-up call it needed in the fourth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s series finale when Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander threw a 94-mph fastball behind designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
The pitch appeared to be retribution for Monday’s series opener, when Orioles right-hander Bud Norris hit Torii Hunter in the ribs in the eighth inning after allowing a two-run homer to Ian Kinsler, prompting both dugouts and bullpens to empty.
Both benches were warned after Verlander nearly hit Cruz, and the pitch injected some life into a sleepy Orioles team that had been scoreless for 12 straight innings.
“Verlander certainly woke us up a little, if we needed waking up,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I think he helped us make an adjustment, kind of got everybody on a different intensity level after he threw at Nelson.”
Trailing, 6-0, the Orioles scored five runs in the next inning, capped by Cruz’s three-run homer off Verlander. But they couldn’t capitalize on that momentum shift, falling to the Tigers, 7-5, in front of an announced 36,727 at Camden Yards.
“Anytime you get thrown behind, it’s going to wake you,” said Cruz, who leads the club with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs. “We battled. . . . In that situation, when you’re down by six and you get that close, I thought the momentum was on our side.
“We have the chance to get it done. We had the bases loaded, runners on base. We didn’t get the big hit in that situation, but we’re just going to focus on the positive.”
Still, the Orioles (20-18) were swept at home in a three-game series for the first time since they lost three in a row at Camden Yards on May 17-19, 2013 to the Tampa Bay Rays. The club now has lost four straight games as it begins a six-game road trip to Kansas City and Pittsburgh.
The momentum built last week during the Orioles’ season-high five-game winning streak was quickly halted against a Tigers team with the best record in the American League. And a three-game series between two division leaders was markedly one-sided this week.
The Orioles have lost five of six against Detroit, and they are 3-9 against the AL Central.