BALTIMORE -- Jose Valverde was up all night battling food poisoning and couldn't hold down food Monday. Miguel Cabrera had the same stomach bug and was scrambling back to the clubhouse in the middle of Monday's 5-1 loss the Orioles.
Rick Porcello didn't have any of that. But after watching Brian Roberts' fly ball sail out of Camden Yards for a go-ahead three-run homer, he had every excuse to feel airsick.
"For me, with my sinker, I feel like if I'm down at the knees or below, a lot of times I'm going to get away with pitches, whether it's in, middle or out," Porcello said. "As long as it's down, they usually have a hard time getting underneath it."
That's what boggled Porcello about his outing, to the point that he had to watch video of it afterward to make sure what he saw was true. It wasn't just the mislocated sinkers that the Orioles got into the air, and there were more than a few. They lofted the ones Porcello felt good about throwing, too.
For four-plus innings, he could live with it. He couldn't understand it, but he could deal with it. Even talking about it, he chuckled because it sounded so odd for him.
"I think they know I'm a sinkerball pitcher," Porcello said, "and they're looking to hit the bottom half of the baseball. That's the best I can come up with. I thought there were some sinkers that I threw that were for sure ground-ball pitches, and they got them up in the air.
"Honestly, without the Roberts home run, I didn't really care. As long as you're getting outs, who cares how you get them, really? It wasn't like it wasn't sinking or I was leaving them up. I was making pitches and they were hitting them in the air."
As Roberts' drive carried out to right-center field, much to his disbelief, he felt a little different.
"It just kind of moved back across the plate," Porcello said. "You look at the swing, and he's clearly trying to get underneath it. It's one of those things where you make your pitch and it wasn't perfect, but it wasn't terrible."
Porcello is not a young fireballer. He survives on ground-ball outs as much or more than any Major League starter. He had one of baseball's best ratios of ground balls to fly balls as a rookie in 2009 before it drew a little closer to even last year.
The last time Porcello had an outing with only one out on the ground, a bench-clearing brawl got him ejected in the second inning at Fenway Park in August 2009. He had a bizarre outing with just four ground balls total against Oakland last May, a few starts before he was sent down, but even that wasn't like this.
Porcello's only ground-ball out Monday was a fourth-inning double play from Adam Jones, jammed on a Porcello sinker. He got eight outs in the air, a foul pop-out, and four by strikeout.
"You'd certainly like to see the ball on the ground a little bit more than what it was," manager Jim Leyland said. "It was not on the ground quite enough, to be honest with you, but he was OK overall. I thought he attacked the zone pretty well. He certainly didn't pitch that bad."
Two of those strikeouts came once he started throwing more four-seam fastballs high to get hitters off the sinker, a trick he used more as a rookie. He fanned Mark Reynolds that way in the second inning before he spiked a slider in the dirt to Felix Pie that skipped past catcher Alex Avila for the Tigers' Major League-high sixth wild pitch of the season, scoring Matt Wieters for Baltimore's first run.
Porcello kept it at that as long as he could, surviving in the air and through swings and misses. Back-to-back ground-ball hits leading off the fifth, the latter of them a J.J. Hardy double just inside third base on a hit-and-run play, put runners at second and third with nobody out.
Roberts fouled off two Porcello fastballs before he teed off on a sinker at the knees.
"Roberts kind of golfed one," Leyland said, "and it kept carrying."
Nobody, including Roberts, thought it was carrying that far.
"Yeah, based on kind of what balls had been doing all day, when I hit it, I wasn't thinking, 'Home run,'" Roberts said. "I assumed I got the run in. Some hurricane came, I guess. I don't know."
It became the 10th home run surrendered by Tigers pitching this season. Three over the last two days have been fly balls that unexpectedly carried out.
Said Porcello: "When he hit it, I didn't [think it was going out]. And then I saw [Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez] running back. You could tell that ball was carrying. He might have hit it better than I thought, I don't know, but you tip your hat."
Even if had been caught, of course, it would've been a go-ahead sacrifice fly. Orioles starter Jake Arrieta made it work with six innings of one-run ball. Will Rhymes went 2-for-3, including an RBI single scoring Brandon Inge after his one-out double in the third, but nobody else had a multihit game.
The middle of the Tigers' order -- Magglio Ordonez, Cabrera and Victor Martinez -- combined to go 1-for-12. Cabrera, weakened by the aforementioned stomach ailment, struck out against Arrieta with Rhymes on second and first base open in the opening inning on his way to an 0-for-4 afternoon.