The Detroit Tigers had won 16 of their last 19 contests at Comerica Park going into the start of the three-game weekend series with the Orioles this past weekend.
After a 5-3 win on Friday night, Jim Leyland’s team had run that streak to 17-of-20, and had pulled even with the Birds in the American League Wild Card standings.
For the O’s, things were looking a bit grim – after losing the final game of an otherwise stellar 7-3 home stand, Buck’s club found themselves in a two-game losing streak with five very tough games still remaining on the road trip to Detroit and Texas.
A “snowball effect” of sorts seemed to be getting started, and it was rolling in the complete wrong direction.
But – as they have done time and again here throughout this improbably 2012 season, the Orioles once again stared adversity in the face, slapped it with an orange-gloved palm, and went on their merry way piling up wins.
By taking the final two games of the three-game set, the O’s leave the Motor City and head for Texas with a record of 66-55, eleven games over .500 and one game back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the first Wild Card spot (0.5 ahead of Oakland for the second).
Things were looking grim on Sunday afternoon, as Wei-Yin Chen spotted the Tigers a 5-run first inning lead. Chen would then buckle down however, and the rookie didn’t allow a single run over the next four innings. Those four innings were enough time for his teammates to come to life against Detroit pitcher Doug Fister, who had been 6-1 over his previous seven starts.
Saturday night’s hero,Chris Davis, led off the second inning with his second home run in as many games. After a Mark Reynolds single and a Taylor Teagarden walk, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy hit back-to-back two-out doubles pulling the O’s to within 5-4.
Two innings later, in the top of the fourth, Markakis and Hardy again played key roles, each drawing a walk with two outs. Nate McLouth lashed a triple to right-center, scoring both, and then came around to the plate himself on a single by Adam Jones.
Six of the Birds’ seven runs were scored with two outs, and the 7-5 lead would be plenty as Luis Ayala, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson combined for four scoreless in relief of Chen.
Of course, things don’t get any easy for the Fightin’ Showalters. A three-game set against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers (70-50) is on deck, with Miguel Gonzalez getting things started against Ryan Dempster tonight in Arlington. Dempster, a trade-deadline acquisition from the Chicago Cubs, has made three starts for his new team. In two of those starts (8/2 against the Angels and 8/13 against the Yankees), he was charged with eight earned runs. In the other start (8/7 against Boston), he shut out the Red Sox for 6.2 innings.
Let’s hope the Birds’ bats stay hot in the Texas heat and they can get to Dempster. By winning two of three in Detroit, they have given themselves some breathing room heading into another tough series, but the teams ahead of them and behind them all keep winning – so they have to as well.