Orioles can't overcome Scherzer, Tigers
Slow start helps club suffer its ninth sweep of the season
DETROIT -- On paper, an Orioles offense that has struggled all season to score runs against red-hot Tigers righty Max Scherzer looked to be a lethal mix. And any chance the O's had of finding an antidote quickly went south as Scherzer came out firing -- striking out five of his first eight batters -- to hand a beleaguered Baltimore squad its ninth sweep of the season with Wednesday's 4-2 loss.
Baltimore is off to a disappointing 1-5 start to a 10-game, three-city road trip.
Wednesday's loss came in front of 22,837 fans at Comerica Park, who witnessed the Tigers' 12th win over the O's in their last 16 contests on Detroit's home turf, a record dating to 2006. These Tigers, who moved a 1 1/2 games ahead of the Twins in the American League Central with Wednesday's win, are particularly potent, sporting a Major League-best 30-12 home record.
"They got everything going," interim Orioles manager Juan Samuel said of Detroit, where he spent seven seasons as a coach. "They got good offense and they got a good bullpen. And as you saw [Wednesday night] they take the lead late in the game, you are pretty much done."
As are the Orioles, who consequently are 0-51 this season when trailing after eight innings. The O's had no answer for Scherzer or any arm that followed, resulting in a loss that puts them at a season-low 34 games under .500 with a Major League-worst record of 25-59.
"You have to forget about these three games," shortstop Cesar Izturis said of a series in which the O's hit .229 (8-for-35) with runners in scoring position and stranded 39 men on base.
"We just couldn't take advantage," Samuel said of Scherzer, who allowed just one earned run for the fourth straight start. "Earlier our guys were saying that they weren't seeing the ball very well. And I know that's the case here in this ballpark, but it's not making an excuse. He did have good stuff, challenged our guys, and it was just one of those nights where our offense didn't click."
A night removed from stranding a season-high 17 runners, Baltimore scored just once off Scherzer, who retired 11 straight before Nick Markakis' single in the fourth inning.
"First of all he was throwing strikes on his first pitch," Izturis said of Scherzer, who finished with six strikeouts en route to his fourth straight winning decision. "And he has a heavy fastball. I think he did a great job."
The O's lone run off Scherzer -- who became the 66th opposing starter to toss at least six innings against Baltimore in 84 games -- came in the seventh when Adam Jones doubled to open the seventh. Despite falling down rounding first, Jones managed to secure the extra-base hit and scored on Matt Wieters' single and the ensuing error from Detroit rookie center fielder Austin Jackson.
Jones scored the only other run, belting a leadoff triple in the ninth inning and scoring on Wieters' ensuing sacrifice fly. The late run closed the Orioles' deficit to two, but that was as close as they would get as the Tigers bullpen -- which entered Wednesday with the fourth-best ERA in the AL -- effectively shut the door.
"They are a good ballclub," said Tigers reliever Phil Coke, who picked up his first save of the season. "They put up a heck of a fight the last two days. They weren't going down easy [Wednesday] either. We had to make sure we executed our pitches."
So did O's starter Brad Bergesen, who did an admirable job of pitching around some of the league's best hitters, scattering 11 hits and pitching into the seventh inning.
"His last two outings have been very, very good," Samuel said of Bergesen, who has had a rocky sophomore campaign, including two demotions to Triple-A. "[Wednesday night] he gave up four runs but he threw the ball well, took us deep into the game, and that's what we wanted to see."
Coming off one of his best starts of the year, Bergesen allowed a quick run in the first inning before No. 9 batter, rookie Danny Worth, sent a 0-1 pitch over the fence for his first Major League home run to lead off the third. Bergesen surrendered another pair of runs in the fifth, as the Tigers belted a pair of doubles sandwiched in between Carlos Guillen's RBI single to stretch their lead to four.
"It's a tough one to really call," Bergesen said of his outing, which dropped him to 3-6 but lowered his ERA from 6.44 to 6.40. "A couple bad pitches, a couple good pitches that they [hit]. I am happy with how I threw it. I'm not happy with how it ended."
Still, Bergesen has pitched into the seventh inning in his last two starts, allowing four and three runs, respectively, and heads into the All-Star break much improved from an 0-2, 12.19 ERA showing in his first three starts.
"I feel like I'm starting to get into a little bit of my old self, finding that old tempo and rhythm," Bergesen said. "And I just have to continue to build off of it."
As for the Orioles, they head to Texas looking to establish some sort of rhythm during the four-game wraparound.
"That's what we are going to do [Thursday], play the style of game that we are trying to play," Samuel said. "Yes we are trying to win every game that we can. But we know that's not possible. So we are going to go out there and continue to play hard."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.