DETROIT -- The Baltimore Orioles ended another one-game winning streak last night and headed home still reeling from another major-league mugging in the Motor City.
The Detroit Tigers made short work of the notion that Tim Hulett's ninth-inning heroics on Tuesday night might be a turning point for his slumping team. They also made short work of starter Ben McDonald on the way to a 9-5 victory before 13,440 at Tiger Stadium.
First baseman Cecil Fielder hit two towering home runs and the Tigers became the third team this year to knock McDonald out of a game in less than three innings. The loss made the Orioles the first team in baseball to sport a double-digit divisional deficit, dropping them 10 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox.
What else can go wrong? Team Batted-Around barely has enough healthy position players to field a starting lineup. The starting rotation is in shambles. The bullpen has been forced to pitch six or more innings in three of the past four games.
McDonald worked a perfect first inning but could not survive a very imperfect second. The Tigers batted around to score six runs and send him to the earliest exit of his major league career. He allowed the first six batters to reach base before manager Frank Robinson intervened (he's getting quite experienced at pulling pitchers in the second inning) and brought on Bob Milacki in relief.
Milacki, you might remember, recorded just two outs in the opener of the series and forced Robinson to get into his starting rotation (Jeff Ballard) for relief later in the game. The Orioles survived a rocky start by Jose Mesa on Tuesday night, but came out of the series with the pitching staff in crisis.
McDonald was supposed to be the ace of the staff this year. He was the early choice to be the Opening Day starter, but spent Opening Day on the disabled list for the second year in a row after suffering a muscle strain in his right elbow.
He has experienced tightness in the area since he returned to the rotation, but had made two solid starts in a row before last night.
"I felt pretty good in the first inning," McDonald said. "I thought it was going to be a good game. But I started pitching out of a stretch, and it got ugly. My release point was high, and I couldn't get it corrected."
Fielder opened the second inning with his seventh home run of the year, a high fly ball that reached the upper deck in left field. Former Orioles catcher Mickey Tettleton followed with a walk and Rob Deer singled before Pete Incaviglia gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead with a two-run double.
The situation deteriorated from there. McDonald walked the next two batters, his fastball consistently sailing high in the strike zone as he loaded the bases with no one out. Robinson brought on Milacki, who got Lloyd Moseby to bounce into a run-scoring force play but gave up a two-run single to Lou Whitaker to stretch the Tigers lead to six.
"I've seen that way too often this year," Robinson said. "I don't know what it is with our starters. They're all over the place. We don't make good pitches, we're walking people, we're giving up big hits and we're out of the game by the fifth inning."
The big inning has been killing the Orioles all month. It was the third time in the series that the Tigers had batted around in an inning and the seventh time a team had batted around against Baltimore pitching in the past 17 games.
Detroit right-hander Bill Gullickson had no reason to be a perfectionist under the circumstances. He gave up five runs on nine hits over 7 2/3 innings to earn his fifth victory in seven decisions.
The Tigers scored early and often in each of the three games of the series, tagging Milacki for five runs in the first inning on Monday night and Mesa for three runs in the first two innings on Tuesday. The Orioles were fortunate to get out of Detroit without being swept.
Fielder padded the lead with two outs in the fourth inning, driving his second home run into the upper deck in left field. It was the eighth time in his career that he has hit more than one homer in a game.
Tettleton enjoyed his first encounter with his former teammates. He reached base eight times in 12 plate appearances in the series, scored four runs and drove in three, but had to leave last night's game early with a bruised wrist.
The Orioles didn't enjoy seeing Incaviglia in a Detroit uniform, either. He drove in two more runs with the second-inning double and finished the series with five hits and seven RBI.
Gullickson took a shutout into the fifth inning, but gave up an RBI single to David Segui, a double to Juan Bell (who started the game after Bill Ripken was scratched with a sore hamstring) and a sacrifice fly to Brady Anderson. The Orioles knocked Gullickson out of the game with back-to-back home runs by Cal Ripken (his 10th) and Sam Horn (his fifth) in the eighth.