'Pen lets down offense, which shows up big
Orioles put up seven runs in the first three frames, but can't hold
DETROIT -- Call it the Motown Meltdown. With temperatures in the high-90s and a heat advisory in effect for the greater Detroit area Monday afternoon, the Orioles-Tigers game featured a pair of wilted starters -- with each failing to go two full innings -- and a marathon bullpen contest that ensured the 26,342 at Comerica Park got their money's worth.
When the dust finally settled, the Orioles came up on the short end of a 12-9 offensive showdown in which every starter on both sides reached base, and the two teams combined for 14 runs in the first two innings. The game's first nine outs took over an hour and the first two frames saw 145 pitches thrown, ending with starters Kevin Millwood and Andy Oliver on the sidelines.
"It was a combination of both teams hitting pretty good and both teams pitching pretty bad," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
"It was ugly. It was real ugly."
Ugly, in fact, is the perfect word to describe Millwood's abbreviated stint. The veteran right-hander came out throwing several 86- and 87-mph fastballs and threw just four of 45 pitches over 90 mph in a one-inning outing that looked more like batting practice.
"There is some concern there," interim manager Juan Samuel said of Millwood, whose ERA ballooned to 5.77 in the no-decision. "[Pitching coach Rick Kranitz] has noticed that his ball was just not coming out of his hand today [with authority] and his velocity was a little bit down. And knowing Kevin, he is not going to tell you what's wrong and what's not. He is one of those guys that's going to take the ball anytime you give it to him."
Millwood, who has previously said his problems are mechanical, had no answer for Monday's dismal showing, which brought his ERA to 10.20 over his last seven starts and fueled speculation that he might be hurt.
"It's been a tough stretch," said Millwood, who has allowed at least two first-inning runs in eight of his past nine starts. "And I have tried a lot of different things to come out of it and change things, and just haven't been able to do [it]."
Including the five earned runs he allowed to the Tigers, Millwood's first-inning ERA is 24.00 in his last nine starts, yielding 25 runs over that span. Additionally, Monday's outing marked the second-shortest non-injury start of his 14-year career. Millwood recorded just one out on June 12, 2000, against Pittsburgh, where he also allowed five runs.
"We have some concern that maybe [Millwood] pitched a bunch early in the season," Samuel said. "But we'll see. We are trying to figure out which way we are going to go with him."
Millwood was hardly the only pitcher who took a holiday on Monday, as the three O's arms who followed -- Mark Hendrickson, Koji Uehara and Matt Albers -- combined to allow seven earned runs, helping the Tigers run away with a win on an afternoon that was as long as it was weird.
"My second at-bat, I thought we were in the fourth inning already," said Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada, who went 1-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in the nearly four-hour marathon.
Added Jake Fox: "That was one of the longer, harder nine-inning games I've played this year. I imagine I'm going to sleep pretty well tonight."
On the heels of a five-run second that chased Oliver from the game, Fox went yard on reliever Eddie Bonine in the third for his second homer in three games.
"I had a good idea he was going to come back with offspeed and he did," said Fox, who had a slew of family and friends in the stands. "[Bonine] left it up and I put a good swing on it."
Fox's blast was the Orioles' only run until a pair of scores in the ninth that was not enough to prevent the Tigers' 'pen from doing what the O's could not: shut the door.
"It just kept going back and forth," said center fielder Adam Jones. "They had more big innings than we did, we made a good effort at the end. Just fell a little short."
The loss drops the Orioles to 25-57 -- worsening an already Major League-worst record -- including a 10-18 mark under Samuel.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.