This was the most significant game of the new season for the Baltimore Orioles who defeated the Detroit Tigers 3-1 at Comerica Park on a sunny, brisk afternoon. Desperately needing a win to avoid dropping to 1-5 on the season, and getting swept by the Tigers in Detroit, Chris Tillman provided the birds with a solid, dependable outing that broke a three-game losing streak and restored confidence in both the pitching and the offense. Not that this was a high-scoring game for the Orioles, but they came through with some key hits late in the game that gave Tillman a bit of breathing room and gave him a shot at earning a complete game. With one down in the bottom of the 9th, Showalter pulled Tillman who looked visibly upset at not being able to finish the game. Tillman probably had a right to feel slighted. At 113 pitches, he certainly could have faced at least one more batter. Moreover, Tillman was not fatigued and his pitches still had some pop. Nonetheless, Showalter pulled the Orioles top hurler and brought in Tommy Hunter who recorded the final two outs of the game.
Other than Tillman's stellar performance, the other standout performance of the day goes to the Orioles defense that remains one of the best in baseball. In the bottom of the eighth inning with the Orioles up 2-1, Andrew Romine hit what appeared to be a bloop single into short left field. Orioles shortstop Ryan Flaherty raced out to catch the ball just as left fielder David Lough came sliding in to Flaherty's right and snagged the ball. On the very next play, Ian Kinsler hit a fast-sinking fly ball to right field that was caught by a diving Nick Markakis who raised his glove to show the umpires that he made a clean catch. Earlier in the game, Steve Lombardozzi fielded an Austin Jackson grounder that skipped under Chris Tillman's glove. Lombardozzi then threw to first-baseman Chris Davis who had to stretch out his legs into a near-split in order to catch the ball and record the out.
Offensively, the Orioles struggled at the plate against Justin Verlander who delivered a solid performance for the Tigers but simply could not keep pace with Chris Tillman. Verlander held the Orioles scoreless through five frames until Adam Jones belted a double to deep center that sailed over the head of Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson. Later, Nelson Cruz hit a soaring double that landed in the gap in right-center fielder, plating Jones and tying the score. In the eighth inning, with the score still tied at one apiece, Nick Markakis triped and scored on an Adam Jones sacrifice fly. Catcher Matt Wieters provided an important insurance run with an opposite-field home run in the top of the ninth inning to make the score 3-1 in favor of the Orioles.
And now the Orioles head to New York to face the Yankees in their home-opener, the third home-opener of the year for the Orioles. The projected match-ups for the series includes Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Hiroki Kuroda in game one, Wei-Yin Chen vs. Ivan Nova in game two, and Miguel Gonzalez vs. Masahiro Tanaka in the final game. After the series in New York, the birds return to Oriole Park for a six-game home stand against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays.
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