DETROIT — The frustration was evident on Matt Manning’s face as he walked into the Tigers dugout at the end of his outing Saturday. He should’ve been following his teammates with the sixth inning over. Instead, he had two outs, three runs in and a reason to look steamed.
And as the Tigers struggled on their way to their second consecutive loss to the Orioles, this one a 5-2 defeat at Comerica Park, manager A.J. Hinch had a fresh reason to look ahead to his potential infield logjam.
His toughest decision Saturday was whether to stick with Manning through a sixth-inning jam. The rookie right-hander had walked back-to-back hitters to load the bases with one out and two sluggers ahead. Pedro Severino had homered twice Friday, while Maikel Franco hit a home run earlier Saturday that left Manning pounding the dugout railing at inning’s end.
Hinch gave Manning a chance to work out of it, like he has with his other rookie starters. And like Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal before him, Manning seemingly responded to it, jamming Severino into a first-pitch popout and inducing a ground ball from the super-aggressive Franco. Zack Short flipped to second for the force out, but Willi Castro couldn’t hold on, an E4 that allowed Ryan Mountcastle to score for a 3-1 lead and kept the inning going.
Manning nodded as if to say he had his defense’s back. But two pitches later, ninth batter Pat Valaika dumped a soft line drive into right field for a two-run single and ended Manning’s night.
Just two of Baltimore’s five runs off Manning were earned, and one of those was arguably a hard-luck tally. Franco’s homer was a loft shot to left off a high fastball that he chased and muscled just far enough to hit off the top of the fence and out, just beyond left fielder Robbie Grossman’s reach.