Detroit — Rookie right-hander Matt Manning was out of the sixth inning with no damage, about to walk off the mound with a solid, quality start, keeping the Tigers down by just one skinny run.
But what should have been an inning-ending 6-4 fielder’s choice ended up igniting a three-run inning and sending the Orioles to their second straight win over the Tigers before a crowd of 25,132 at Comerica Park, 5-2.
Manning had walked back-to-back hitters to load the bases with one out. He was at 81 pitches and Joe Jimenez was warm in the bullpen. But manager AJ Hinch gave Manning rope to work his way out of the mess.
Manning responded by getting Pedro Severino to pop out and Maikel Franco, who had homered off him in the fifth, to roll one to Zack Short at shortstop. Short’s throw to second was knee-high and catchable, but second baseman Willi Castro dropped it.
One unearned run scored on that play and two more scored on an opposite-field single by No. 9 hitter Pat Valaika.
The Tigers, as they seem to do every night, didn’t die without a fight. This time they did it against the same reliever they rallied against in the loss Friday night — lefty Tanner Scott.
He faced four hitters without recording an out Friday and he loaded the bases (two walks and a hit batter) with no outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Right-hander Cole Sulser was summoned, as he was Friday. He limited the damage to a run (on a ground out by pinch-hitter Akil Baddoo).
Manning, though he created the mess in the sixth, probably deserved a better fate. He’d allowed two runs on five hits through five innings and seemed to be in control of most of the at-bats, deftly mixing four-seam and two-seam fastballs and sprinkling in sliders, change-ups and curveballs.
He gave up a run in the third inning on a two-out, broken-bat single by Ryan Mountcastle — a ball that center fielder Derek Hill just missed after a long run and full-out forward dive.
In the fifth, Franco turned on an 0-1 four-seamer (93 mph) and knocked it into the Tigers’ bullpen in left field.
The Tigers, meanwhile, weren’t able to sustain any kind of an attack against Orioles lefty John Means. The only damage against him in six innings was a solo home run by Eric Haase with one out in the fourth. Haase, who was fed a steady diet of off-speed and breaking balls in his first at-bat (strikeout), jumped a first-pitch fastball.
Even though it was up and probably out of the strike zone, he got the barrel on it for his team-leading 18th home run.
This was Means’ third start since coming off the injured list. In the previous two, he’d been tagged for nine runs in 11.2 innings. But his change-up was extremely effective against the Tigers’ all right-handed lineup, working off a 93-mph four-seam fastball.
The four balls put in play against the change-up, all outs, had an average exit velocity of a meek 76 mph. All told, the Tigers had an average exit velocity on eight balls in play off Means of 79 mph.
The two losses to the rebuilding Orioles came after the Tigers had won 10 straight at Comerica.