Early runs not enough for Tigers in loss to O's

Early runs not enough for Tigers in loss to O's

Published Aug. 19, 2012 4:13 p.m. ET

DETROIT -- Was it opposite day at Comerica Park on Sunday?

After the Tigers spotted Doug Fister a five-run lead in the first inning, most people probably thought the game would end up in the win column.

Instead, Fister gave the Baltimore Orioles four runs back in the top of the second in Detroit's 7-5 loss.

In his 3 2/3 innings, Fister allowed seven runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out six. In his previous five starts combined, Fister had allowed just seven earned runs. In his past seven combined, he had given up just nine earned runs.

"He was just out of whack," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He wasn't good. He just struggled pretty much. You could see he wasn't quite right. Just one of those days."

For a pitcher who relies on pinpoint control, Fister just didn't have it with all of his pitches Sunday the way he's accustomed to.

"They had a pretty good approach today," catcher Gerald Laird said. "I was thinking, darn, they were laying off some pretty good pitches, making him get the ball up. And when you get the ball up, they put some good swings on it.

"It’s one of those things, where you have to get ahead and you have to make pitches when you are ahead."

Fister said nothing was bothering him physically.

"It’s plain and simple. I just didn’t execute," Fister said. "I was very poor at making adjustments, and they hit some mistakes and made me pay for it."

Meanwhile, after needing 41 pitches just to get out of the first inning, Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen managed to make it through five innings. Chen allowed just two hits after the first inning.

"He could have caved in and he didn't," Leyland said. "Then their bullpen did a good job.

"You gotta give him credit. He gave up the five-spot and then he settled in and got through five innings. It was pretty impressive."

The Tigers hitters praised the way Chen settled in but were less than pleased with the fact that they never scored again after the first.

"It's frustrating," said Jeff Baker, who had an RBI double in the first inning. "You take pride in trying to get the starter's pitch count up and get him out of the game, getting to that middle part of the bullpen and try to add on.

"You've got to give him credit. He settled down and made pitches, and we weren't able to do that."

Laird said Chen located better after the first inning.

"He just got more command with his heater," Laird said. "He was missing pitches out over the plate, and we were able to put some good swings on him.

"After that, he kinda dialed it in and was able to command his fastball on both sides."

Maybe it wouldn't have mattered if the Tigers had managed to get Chen out, considering the way the Orioles' bullpen has performed this season.

Including their four scoreless innings Sunday, Baltimore's relievers have a 1.56 ERA in their past 16 games.

Tigers relievers Luke Putkonen, Brayan Villarreal, Darin Downs and Joaquin Benoit did their part to hold the game there, but the Tigers couldn't get anything going offensively.

In the seventh inning, Austin Jackson singled and Omar Infante reached on an error. Yet Miguel Cabrera uncharacteristically struck out looking, and Prince Fielder grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Because the Tigers (64-57) lost two to the Orioles (66-55), Baltimore remains ahead of Detroit in the wild-card race.

"That’s a good team that’s battling for a playoff spot like we are," Laird said. "We have to execute better when we’re ahead in the count and put this behind us because it’s not going to get easier down the stretch.

"We know what we can do. We just have to do it more on a consistent basis."

The Kansas City Royals swept the Chicago White Sox, but the Tigers could pick up only one game and remain a game and a half back.