Pete Harnisch is the only pitcher who has been in the Baltimore Orioles rotation -- without interruption -- from the start of the season. Whether he'll be there at the finish might be another story.
Manager Frank Robinson watched Harnisch give up nine hits over six innings in last night's 8-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers, then left open the possibility that he would be removed from the rotation to avoid further wear and tear on his tired arm.
Not that there is anything physically wrong with Harnisch other than a predictable case of late-season fatigue, but the Orioles have reached the stage where there is little reason to push him any further.
"Going into the game, I hadn't given that much thought," Robinson said, "and I haven't had a lot of time to think about it since the game ended, but that's a possibility. I suppose anything right now is a possibility."
Harnisch opened the season with seven victories in his first 10 decisions, but he has lost eight of his past 11 to drop below .500 (10-11) for the first time this year. He complained of a tired arm in August, so it would be logical to assume that the fatigue factor remains significant. But he was not around after the game to confirm or deny that.
Robinson expressed concern that the innings have begun to take a toll on Harnisch's ability to locate the ball, which might explain why the game started to come apart after only a couple of innings.
"I worry about all the young pitchers who are pitching a full season," Robinson said. "It can wear them down."
Harnisch, who is 1-6 with a 6.57 ERA in his past nine starts, worked into the seventh before a two-run homer by Lou Whitaker hastened his removal from the game. The Tigers went on to score five times in that inning to turn it into a rout.
Not that they needed any more than a couple of runs on this night.
Left-hander Frank Tanana finessed the Orioles offense right back into its month-long slump, combining with reliever Mike Henneman to hold the Orioles to six hits and end a three-game winning streak that was threatening to put them back in the race for third place.
The Orioles have been known to struggle against finesse pitchers such as Tanana, even finesse pitchers who come into Memorial Stadium with a 6.06 ERA. It didn't help them that Tanana appears to have recovered from a discouraging midseason slump to pitch solidly his past four times out.
He temporarily lost his place in the Tigers rotation after a seven-week stretch (June 8-July 28) in which he went 1-4 with a 10.26 ERA. But since returning to the rotation on Aug. 25, he has won two straight decisions to even his record at 7-7 and Detroit has won all four of the games he has started.
Tanana didn't give up a hit until Bob Melvin dropped a looper into center field in the third, and didn't give up a solid hit until Cal Ripken delivered a two-out single to left in the fourth.
The Orioles were coming off a three-game sweep over the California Angels, but their offensive performance during the weekend did not extend into the working week. They averaged nearly five runs a game against California, which would not be an offensive bonanza for a lot of teams, but was considered a watershed after the way the Orioles struggled at the plate during the 4-17 slump that preceded it.
Detroit put the game away in the seventh ... with a little help from the Orioles defense and one big swing by Whitaker. Tony Phillips reached base when David Segui picked up his bouncer and flipped the ball over the head of Harnisch covering at first. Whitaker hit the next pitch into the right-field bleachers for his 17th home run of the year.
Harnisch also gave up a solid single to Travis Fryman before leaving to a mixture of catcalls and polite applause, the loss dropping his record below .500 for the first time this year.
Left-hander Kevin Hickey took over in relief and walked the bases loaded on nine pitches before giving way to Bob Milacki, who allowed all three inherited runners to score on a two-run single by Lemon and an RBI groundout by Heath.
The Tigers came in with four losses in their past five games, but took the lead in the third inning on a two-out RBI single by Whitaker. Rookie Milt Cuyler singled with one out and set up the run with his first major-league stolen base.
Cuyler would come back to haunt Harnisch again in the fourth inning, when the Tigers scored two more runs after there were two out.
Lloyd Moseby started the rally with a one-out single, but Harnisch handed a two-out walk to Chet Lemon and gave up a soft single to Mike Heath to bring home Moseby. Cuyler followed with a line drive that kicked up chalk down the right-field line and staked Tanana to a 3-0 lead.
Tigers third: Heath grounded out to third. Cuyler singled to left. Cuyler stole second. Phillips struck out. Whitaker singled to right, Cuyler scored, Whitaker to second on throw home. Fryman popped out to second. Tigers 1, Orioles 0.