GAIL BURTON / AP Enlarge
BALTIMORE - Justin Verlander walked off the mound, waved his cap and blew a kiss to a few special fans. The right-hander was disappointed about coming within an out of completing a three-hitter.
Verlander impressed family and friends with a masterful pitching performance, Magglio Ordonez and Marcus Thames hit solo homers, and the Detroit Tigers handed the Baltimore Orioles their 15th consecutive Sunday loss, 5-1.
Verlander was reared near Richmond, Va., before pitching for Old Dominion, and several in the crowd of 23,278 traveled the 150 miles north to see him.
"I left 21 tickets but I saw a bunch of other people I knew," Verlander said.
Referring to his gesture as he headed to the dugout, he said, "My whole family was up there, so that's just my way of telling them I love you guys. Obviously I can't go up there and say that."
Verlander (8-9) was replaced by Todd Jones after allowing his second walk of the ninth inning. Jones walked Aubrey Huff before Brandon Inge made an excellent diving stab of a grounder down the third-base line by Kevin Millar, then threw to first from his knees to end it.
"What was going through my mind at that time? Verlander pitched a great game. There was no chance I was going to let this ball get to the outfield," Inge said.
Verlander retired 16 straight Birds between a second-inning double by Luke Scott and a seventh-inning double by Millar. The only other hit against him was an eighth-inning single by Guillermo Quiroz.
"He had good stuff. I was wondering how he had such a high ERA [4.15] coming into the game with the way he threw today," Huff said. "That's the Verlander that I've seen in the past. He has a big differential between his off-speed pitches and his fastball."
Verlander walked three and struck out three.
"Obviously, I wanted to go all nine, but 82/3 will do," he said.
The Tigers have won each of Verlander's last six starts, and he's unbeaten in eight outings since June 6. During that span he recorded Detroit's lone complete game this season, against the Chicago White Sox.
Ryan Raburn had two RBIs for the Tigers, who gained a split of the four-game series to move back to .500 (49-49).
Scott drove in the lone run for the Orioles, whose 15-game skid on Sundays is the longest on any given day since Arizona dropped 15 in a row on Saturdays in 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Baltimore has been outscored 81-41 in Sunday games since winning its first one of the season, at home against Seattle.
"It's frustrating," Quiroz said. "It's something that we have to get out of the way."
The Tigers took a 3-1 lead with a two-run sixth against Brian Burres (7-6).
After second baseman Brian Roberts made a barehanded pickup on the outfield grass before throwing out Miguel Cabrera, Thames hit a breaking ball inside the left-field foul pole for his 19th home run.
Inge doubled and Raburn followed with an RBI single to chase Burres.
In the seventh, Millar doubled with two outs before Verlander struck out Scott.
"Unbelievable. Tremendous. That's a big-game pitcher coming up big-time," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
The Tigers made it 5-1 in the eighth. Cabrera singled and Thames doubled before Inge hit a run-scoring grounder and Raburn singled in Thames.
Detroit used two walks and a single to load the bases with two outs in the first, but Burres recovered to strike out Thames.
Baltimore got a second-inning run when Huff walked and scored on a double by Scott, who went to third on the throw home. Scott then got caught in a rundown after breaking for home on a grounder while Detroit had the infield in.
But that was the extent of the Orioles' offensive production.
"The momentum never really came on our side," manager Dave Trembley said.
"We had that one scoring opportunity when Huff scored all the way from first base [before] that very bad decision by Luke when he was in the rundown. It seemed to take a little air out of the balloon for us."
Ordonez tied it in the third with his 13th home run.39.29055 -76.6096