Orioles starter Kevin Millwood wipes his brow during the the… (Duane Burleson, Associated…)
DETROIT — The Orioles survived an excruciatingly long, brutal and strange beginning Monday at Comerica Park, watching their veteran leader deliver his worst performance of the season while they dug out of a four-run hole by pummeling the opposition's starter.
Ultimately, though, the ending was eerily familiar for the Orioles, another loss in a season filled with them. This time they dropped a 12-9 slugfest to the Detroit Tigers before an announced 26,432 in sweltering, 90-plus-degree heat at Comerica Park.
"We can't get motivated to get up and do anything [post-game]," said Orioles infielder Jake Fox, who hit the lone home run, a solo shot in the third inning, in a nearly four-hour game that featured 21 runs and 31 hits. "Anytime you play in that kind of heat in that kind of game where it's just back and forth, a lot of runs scored at one time, it's hard. It wears on you, especially physically."
The Orioles (25-57) have lost four of their past five and 25 of their past 35.
Monday's first two innings lasted longer than some animated films — one hour, 20 minutes. An incredible 145 pitches were thrown by four pitchers in those two innings, including 45 by Orioles starter Kevin Millwood in the first and 35 by Orioles reliever Mark Hendrickson.
"My second at-bat, I thought we were in the fourth inning already," third baseman Miguel Tejada said of his second-inning plate appearance.
Millwood, the third-shortest start of his 14-season career, retired the first batter he faced and then allowed the next six to reach base. By the time he walked to the dugout after striking out the Tigers' ninth batter of the inning, the Orioles were down 5-1.
"It [stinks]," said Millwood, who has allowed a combined 24 earned runs in the first inning of his past nine starts after giving up none in the first inning of his initial nine Orioles starts. "You prepare for four or five days to go out and start, and you don't do what you expect yourself to do."
After the game, interim manager Juan Samuel met behind closed doors with other Orioles officials for 20 minutes, and he acknowledged that, among other things, they discussed Millwood's declining velocity and whether he should be placed on the disabled list.
Millwood, a pending free agent who was thought to be a key trade chip when he allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his first 10 starts, is 2-8 and has allowed four or more earned runs in seven of his past eight starts, pushing his season ERA to 5.77.
"It's about as bad as it gets, so I don't know what else to say," said Millwood, who allowed four hits and two walks. "It's about as bad as it gets."
It was only the third time in his career that Millwood lasted one inning or fewer in a start. On June 12, 2000, when he was with the Atlanta Braves, he got just one out against the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving up five runs and throwing 32 pitches.
His second-shortest start was May 10, 2008, while he was with the Texas Rangers. He recorded the first two outs against the Oakland Athletics before he left in the middle of pitching to the third batter because of a strained right groin that landed him on the DL.
Millwood didn't get the loss Monday, however, because in this crazy contest — in which the appearance of a swarm of locusts couldn't be discounted — the Orioles stormed back in the top of the second when they sent nine batters to the plate and scored five runs to take a 6-5 lead.
Julio Lugo had an RBI triple, one of his three hits in the game, and Ty Wigginton added an RBI double against Tigers reliever Eddie Bonine (4-0) after the Orioles had chased rookie starter Andy Oliver with two outs in the second.
Oliver, making just his third big league start, was charged with six runs (five earned) in 1 2/3 innings. It was just the third time in the past two calendar years that two major league teams have had their starters fail to complete two innings in the same game.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals accomplished that April 14, and the time before that was Aug. 17, 2008, when the Orioles and Tigers did it — again at Comerica Park. In that game, Garrett Olson lasted just 1 2/3 innings and Detroit's Zach Miner went 1 1/3 in an eventual 16-8 Orioles win.
The Orioles couldn't rally enough Monday, though.
Hendrickson (1-4) allowed three more runs in the second, two on a single by Carlos Guillen, and the Tigers took the lead for good.
Five Orioles pitched in the game, and only David Hernandez wasn't charged with a run, though he did allow a two-run double to Brandon Inge. Those runs were the responsibility of Matt Albers. Koji Uehara also surrendered two runs in the game and has allowed seven hits and three runs in three appearances since returning from the disabled list.
"It was one of those days that was not a day for pitching," Samuel said.
After Fox's homer, the Orioles failed to score again until the ninth, when Matt Wieters had a two-run single and the Orioles brought the potential tying run up against Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Cesar Izturis, however, popped up to mercifully end the game after a mere three hours, 44 minutes.
"For me, I haven't played a lot this year. That was one of the longer, harder nine-inning games I've played this year," Fox said. "I imagine I'm going to sleep pretty well tonight."
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