Detroit holds on for 7-6 win over Orioles

DETROIT (AP) Torii Hunter and the Detroit Tigers are baseball’s only undefeated team.

The only team that can still make goofy statements like this.

”Hopefully we go 162-0,” the always-upbeat Hunter said. ”It would be awesome.”

Hunter homered and drove in five runs, and the Tigers withstood a five-run ninth inning by Baltimore to beat the Orioles 7-6 on Saturday. Joe Nathan got the final two outs for his first save with Detroit, retiring Chris Davis on a flyout with two on to end it.

Hunter hit a three-run double in the third, then added a two-run drive in the fifth for his second homer of the year. The Tigers have 17 runs and 30 hits in their past two games.

”I like this ballclub,” Hunter said. ”You talk about a very athletic team, doesn’t strike out much at all, and will make good contact. We’ve got some guys that have professional at-bats.”

Rick Porcello (1-0) allowed a run and three hits in 6 2-3 innings in his first start of the season, but the Tigers (4-0) had to hold on when the Orioles nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback.

Detroit led 7-1 entering the ninth, but Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque couldn’t close out the Orioles. Nathan came on with two on, one out and the score 7-3.

Steve Lombardozzi singled to deep right to load the bases, and pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger’s double made it 7-5. David Lough brought home another run with a grounder to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who threw wide of first for an error.

With men on first and second, Nathan struck out Nelson Cruz and got Davis to hit a lazy fly to left.

”The momentum’s obviously swinging their way,” said Nathan, who signed with the Tigers in the offseason as a free agent. ”Sometimes the hardest thing to do in those situations is stop the bleeding.”

Bud Norris (0-1) allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings, and the Orioles lost their fourth straight.

Detroit’s Brad Ausmus became the first manager in more than a decade to begin his career with four straight wins, according to STATS. Clint Hurdle of Colorado and Jerry Royster of Milwaukee both did it in 2002.

Ausmus took over for Jim Leyland after last season.

The 25-year-old Porcello already has five full seasons under his belt. If he blossoms into a true standout, Detroit’s already-excellent rotation will look even tougher.

Porcello struck out only three with two walks, but he didn’t allow a hit after the second inning. Only one of the final 17 batters he faced reached base.

Davis opened the scoring in the first with an RBI single for Baltimore, but he was thrown out trying to take second. The Tigers took the lead in the third when Hunter’s line drive to the corner in left field cleared the bases. His homer in the fifth made it 5-1.

In the sixth, Don Kelly hit an RBI triple and scored on Rajai Davis’ sacrifice fly.

Adam Jones hit an RBI triple off Coke in the ninth for the Orioles, and he scored on Nick Markakis’ groundout to make it 7-3.

”I knew we were going to make a run, but it was a little too late,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. ”We’ve got the first part of games down, and we’re doing well at the ends of games, but we’ve got to figure out how to hold our own in the middle. The starters have to get us deeper into games.”

The Tigers have hit six homers in their first four games, an encouraging sign after they traded cleanup hitter Prince Fielder in the offseason. Kelly had three hits Saturday, while Hunter, Davis, Ian Kinsler and Austin Jackson added two apiece.

The bottom three hitters for Detroit – Gonzalez, Kelly and Davis – combined to go 6 for 10 with two RBIs and five runs scored.

NOTES: The temperature at game time was 41 degrees. … Orioles SS J.J. Hardy prevented further damage in the third with a diving stop on Victor Martinez’s grounder. … Detroit’s Justin Verlander (0-0) will face Baltimore’s Chris Tillman (0-0) on Sunday.