(Reuters) - Baltimore rallied for a 7-6 win as the Detroit Tigers suffered another eighth inning collapse on Friday, sending the Orioles to a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League division series.
After scoring eight runs in the eighth inning to key a 12-3 Game One win on Thursday, the Orioles followed the same script in a Game Two matinee at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, pushing across four runs in the eighth to once again stun the Tigers.
Trailing 6-3, Steve Pearce started the Orioles’ comeback with an RBI single before Delmon Young slammed a bases-loaded double, scoring three more runs to leave the capacity crowd on its feet, roaring in delight.
The series now shifts to the Motor City for Game Three on Sunday with the Tigers needing a victory to avoid elimination.
“It’s nice, but at the same time, we’ve got to stay focused and take care of business,” Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy told reporters. “Just because we’re up two games doesn’t mean the series is over. So we got to stay focused.”
With 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, an unbeaten 7-0 at Camden Yards, on the mound with a 5-2 lead after a five-run fourth inning the Tigers had looked ready to level the series.
But once again a wobbly bullpen proved to be Detroit’s Achilles heel, the Orioles piling up 12 runs over two games in the eighth inning.
”I guess there is that sense of finality,“ said Orioles manager Buck Showalter when asked to explain his team’s eighth inning magic. ”If you take any pitch off, you know in the back of your mind it could be that pitch.
“But if we knew that, we would move it to another inning and make it less stressful on all of us.”
Picking up where they left off in Game One, the Orioles got to Verlander in the third inning when Nick Markakis crushed a line drive two-run homer.
But the Tigers answered right back with a five-run explosion in the fourth powered by back-to-back homers, a three-run blast from J.D. Martinez and a solo shot from Nick Castellanos to surge in front 5-2.
After a hard hit line drive single by Rajai Davis, Showalter had seen enough, pulling starter Wei-Yin Chen in favor of Kevin Gausman.
It was a disappointing outing for Chen, a Taiwanese lefty who lasted just 3 2/3 innings after surrendering five runs on seven hits.
Verlander gave the Tigers five plus solid innings of work giving up three runs on six hits before turning the ball over to the bullpen.
Taking no chances, Detroit manager Brad Ausmus turned to starter Anibal Sanchez, who is working his way back to full fitness after coming off the 15-day disabled list with a pectoral strain.
The move looked a stroke of genius as Sanchez worked two spotless innings, retiring six straight batters.
But the game slipped away in the eighth with Joba Chamberlain giving up three runs on two hits in one-third of an inning and Joakim Soria taking the loss after serving up the winning double to Young.
”It’s certainly a little tough to swallow,“ Ausmus said. ”When you have a three-run lead going into the last couple of innings, you feel like you should get the job done but we didn‘t.
“There is nothing we can do about it, so we will look forward to Game Three.”
(This version of the story corrects Chen’s nationality in 13th paragraph)
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Gene Cherry