Orioles starting pitcher Brad Bergesen covers his face with… (Paul Sancya, Associated…)
DETROIT — The Orioles left Comerica Park on Wednesday after being swept in a series for the ninth time in this dreadful season with an odd sense that they are making strides.
Sure, their 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers pushed the Orioles (25-59) to a season-low 34 games under .500 and 1-5 on a brutal 10-game road trip that ends with four in Texas.
But after their third straight defeat, interim manager Juan Samuel said he was pleased with how his club competed against the American League Central-leading Tigers, the best home team in the league.
"Well, they [the Tigers] got everything going," Samuel said. "They got good offense, and they got a good bullpen. And, as you saw tonight, [when] they take the lead late in the game, they are pretty much done."
The way Tigers starter Max Scherzer pitched, the Orioles were pretty much done in the first inning.
Scherzer (6-6) retired the first 11 batters he faced before Nick Markakis hit an infield single with two outs in the fourth. Winning his fourth straight decision, Scherzer used a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider to keep the Orioles off balance. He allowed six hits, two walks and one run in seven innings while striking out six.
"First of all, he was throwing strikes on his first pitch and he has a heavy fastball," said shortstop Cesar Izturis, whose sixth-inning single gave him a hit in each of the six games on the road trip. "I think he did a great job."
The Orioles' lone run against Scherzer was scored by center fielder Adam Jones, who also provided the most entertaining moment of the night. With the Orioles down 4-0 in the seventh, Jones hit a sharp liner into the left-field corner for an easy double.
On his way around first base, Jones tripped and fell face-first onto the infield dirt. Simultaneously, Tigers left fielder Brennan Boesch slipped, allowing the ball to trickle past him and giving Jones enough time to get up and trot into second base with a smile on his face.
He scored when Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson overran Matt Wieters' single to center. It was the Orioles' only hit in four chances with runners in scoring position, putting them at an abysmal .229 (8-for-35) with runners in scoring position in the Detroit series. They stranded six runners Wednesday and have left 32 on base in their past three games.
"We just couldn't take advantage of [Scherzer]," Samuel said. "Earlier, our guys were saying that they weren't seeing the ball very well. And I know that's the case here in this ballpark, but it's not making an excuse. He did have good stuff, challenged our guys and it was just one of those nights where our offense didn't click."
The lack of run support wasn't anything unusual for Orioles starter Brad Bergesen (3-6), who hasn't won since May12, a span of seven starts.
In his past four outings, the Orioles have scored just four runs while Bergesen was in the game, a period of 20 innings. He left with no outs and two runners on in the seventh with the Orioles trailing 4-1.
Coming off one of his better starts of the season, Bergesen wasn't impressive, but he kept the Orioles close. He allowed an RBI groundout in the first and the first homer of rookie Danny Worth's major league career in the third, a solo shot to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
"It's a tough one to really call. I mean, I felt like I threw the ball good. A couple bad pitches, a couple good pitches that they [hit]," Bergesen said. "I am happy with how I threw it. I'm not happy with how it ended. But I think I did a good job getting into the seventh inning and just keeping the team in the game today."
Bergesen's worst inning was the fifth, when he retired the first two batters before giving up two runs on two doubles and a single, three of his season-high-tying 11 hits allowed.
"For them to put a little rally together like that, it really killed me," he said. "That was obviously my worst inning."
Bergesen's first half of the season ended with a disappointing 6.40 ERA and two minor league demotions, but he said he feels as if he has improved in his past two starts heading to the break.
"I feel like I'm starting to get into a little bit of my old self, finding that old tempo and rhythm, and I just have to continue to build off of it," he said.
The Orioles closed within two runs in the ninth, when Jones hit a leadoff triple and scored on Wieters' sacrifice fly. The run was charged to Robbie Weinhardt, who made his major league debut. In the eighth, Weinhardt faced his first bigleague batter, Miguel Tejada, and hit him. It was one of the few things that went wrong in the three-game series for the Tigers.
But Phil Coke retired all three batters he faced for his first save. And the Orioles dropped to 0-51 when trailing after eight innings.
Still, the Orioles took solace in their three losses in Detroit, all by three runs or fewer.
"That's the game; somebody had to lose," Izturis said. "We played great games. We played to win the game. We lost all three, but we have to forget about this series and focus on Texas."
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