DETROIT -- A seven-game winning streak ended last night and a brush fire might have started in its place. It wasn't just that the Detroit Tigers took apart the Orioles, 7-1, inside an icebox called Tiger Stadium, it was how they punctuated the ending.
Able to dispose of troubled Orioles starter Doug Drabek after four innings, the Tigers constructed a six-run lead and kept running. The message, intended or not, left the Orioles in a decidedly foul mood with two games to play this weekend.
"Sometimes you need to leave a sleeping dog lie, and hopefully )) they woke us up tonight," said Orioles manager Ray Miller.
Numbed by the cold and Tigers starter Tim Worrell, the Orioles managed only five hits in seven innings against the right-hander and only six for the game.
Brady Anderson's home run in the third inning was all that separated the 7-2 Orioles from a complete wipeout. Left fielder ,, B. J. Surhoff contributed three hits but Worrell held the Nos. 2-5 hitters to an 0-for-11 start.
No matter. The Orioles were virtually assured of a fourth straight loss at Tiger Stadium before the sixth inning. Drabek gave up three early home runs and pitched as shabbily last night as he did brilliantly in a 7 1/3 -inning performance against the Tigers the week before.
The Tigers led 2-0 after homering twice in Drabek's first 10 pitches and continued to pester him for seven hits and six earned runs in four-plus innings.
Center fielder Brian Hunter began the breakout by taking Drabek's second pitch over the left-field scoreboard for his second home run of the season. One hitter later, Bobby Higginson ripped a towering blast into the right-field upper deck.
Drabek, borderline brilliant in a win over the same team a week earlier, brought nothing to the mound and was quickly bruised. The Orioles hadn't lost since March. They hadn't lost this badly since an 11-3 defeat last Sept. 21, strangely enough against the Tigers.
Detroit now has beaten the Orioles four straight times at Tiger Stadium, including three last July, scoring 38 runs in the process. Last night, they never seemed satisfied.
Leading 7-1 and facing reliever Scott Kamieniecki, Hunter stole second with two outs and without a throw in the sixth inning.
The Tigers insisted no ill was intended. The Orioles saw it differently, perceiving a breach of the unwritten rule against overdoing a game with no suspense.
Maybe it was payback for last weekend at Camden Yards, where the Tigers thought it cheap of Miller to have first base coach Jerry White confined to the coach's box. Miller believed White may have been relaying signs by touch to base stealers (the Tigers stole 11 in the series).
Bell and White considered Miller's move pure gamesmanship. Last night, however, Bell insisted, "I thought it was too early to shut it down. We're not trying to show anybody up."
Miller said: "If you play real close behind the runner with a six-run lead and they decide to run, it just means the other team can do whatever it wants whenever it wants. From the looks of [Hunter's] last at-bat, maybe he was concerned something would be done [in retaliation]."
Hunter struck out after Kamieniecki started him with an inside breaking pitch.
"Maybe it's a compliment on their part," Kamieniecki said. "Maybe they didn't think they had enough [runs]. You tend to remember things like that. Those things are taken care of internally. We'll handle it."
Drabek (1-1) suffered from a double dose of deja vu. He surrendered a career-high 30 home runs with the Chicago White xTC Sox last year -- just shy of one per start -- and again suffered a traumatic Tiger Stadium experience.
In four career starts at the venerable dump on Trumbull Street, Drabek has surrendered 13 earned runs and three homers in 9 1/3 innings, a 12.54 ERA.
"Dougie got the ball up a little bit tonight. They made him pay up," Miller said.
"I just couldn't make the adjustment I needed to get the ball down," Drabek said. " When you're not a power pitcher, you tend to get penalized. Plus, I just wasn't throwing strikes early in the count. That's a bad combination."
The Orioles' best news undoubtedly came in the third inning when the injured Anderson broke his 1-for-22 (.045) skid with a one-out home run into the upper deck in right field.
Only two days before Anderson had used an off-day batting practice in Kansas City to determine whether he could swing without stifling pain. However, he has chosen not to take Miller's suggestion to cut down on his swing to avoid further possible damage to his right shoulder.
The Tigers pressed their lead to 3-1 in the third inning when No. 9 hitter Bill Ripken singled, went to second on Bip Roberts' walk and then scored on Tony Clark's single to right field.
Another home run, this one by second baseman Damion Easley, jacked the lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning. Easley raised his career average against Drabek to .462, with two home runs and five RBIs in 13 at-bats.
Drabek unraveled to start the fifth inning. Hunter led off with a single, took second with his seventh steal and scored on Roberts' single. Miller had seen enough and hooked Drabek for the shortest outing by an Orioles starter this season.
Opponent: Detroit Tigers
Site: Tiger Stadium
Time: 1: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: O's Mike Mussina (1-1, 3.00) vs. Tigers' Justin Thompson (1-1, 5.23)
Pub Date: 4/11/98