Baltimore — One way to purge the trauma of a 22-inning scoreless stretch is to invoke the healing powers of Miguel Cabrera’s bat.
The Tigers turned matters over not entirely to their Hall of Fame-bound hitter Saturday night at Camden Yards, but they found him to be their best medicine as they said goodbye to three consecutive losses, two of them by shutout, with a bat-booming 9-5 whipping of the Orioles.
Cabrera had a soaring three-run homer onto the patio deck in the second inning, then added a double and single as he finished the night with three hits, five RBIs, and an intentional walk.
“From the get-go, a little more energy tonight,” said Ron Gardenhire, the Tigers manager who saw his team take an early 5-0 lead, then allow an 8-1 game slip to 8-5 in the seventh as reliever Warwick Saupold had a miserable time throwing strikes.
“It was a fun game for seven innings,” said Gardenhire, whose team won for the first time since the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader at Pittsburgh. “Then things got a little bit hairy, and we still won.
“It wasn’t the way we planned it.”
Fortunately for Gardenhire and his gang, the Tigers offense was more than even the Orioles at hitter-loving Camden Yards could surpass.
Cabrera’s big night began quickly, with a single in the first. In the second, with Orioles starter Andrew Cashner wobbling and all but inviting the Tigers to put him away, Cabrera drove an 0-1 curveball onto the veranda in right field, his third homer of 2018, good for three RBIs.
He added a two-run double in the fourth that benefited from a bad piece of judgment by Orioles left-fielder Craig Gentry, who tried to make a play on what should have been a Cabrera single. The ball got past him, allowing two Tigers runners to scoot home.
Cabrera needed a triple in either of his final two at-bats for the cycle. But a man who has hit only five triples the past 10 seasons wasn’t the best of bets there. And no one knew it better than Cabrera.
“When I was younger, maybe,” Cabrera said, with a wry smile. “Now, it’s more hard.”
Victor Martinez tossed in his second homer of the season, in the ninth, while James McCann had three singles as part of Detroit’s 13-hit breakout. JaCoby Jones added a pair of doubles, while Nick Castellanos had a first-inning RBI single that knocked in the Tigers’ first run since the fifth inning of Wednesday’s second game against the Pirates.
Among the Tigers most thankful for Saturday’s surge was starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, who bumped his record to 3-1 with 6⅓ innings of quality work.
Liriano had his customary fastball-slider combination, spiced by the occasional change-up, making the Orioles’ at-bats generally a chore. The difference Saturday was location. Liriano, who has had his quarrels with the strike zone in 2018, walked only two batters, the second coming in the seventh, one batter before he departed after having thrown 87 pitches.
Gardenhire thought there was nothing new or improved about Liriano’s stint, with one exception.
“His pitch-count was better tonight,” the skipper said. “His slider was really good tonight. But he’s given us that (kind of performance) about every game.”
Liriano would have had a better pitching line (six hits, three runs) had his follow-up reliever, Warwick Saupold, not had a gruesome appearance in the seventh. Saupold pitched to four batters, with these cringe-inducing results: walk, hit batsman, line-out to third, walk.
Two Orioles runs scored, both charged to Liriano. Two more scored, charged to Saupold, after Joe Jimenez arrived in a bid to put away the Orioles’ primary assault artist, Manny Machado, with the bases loaded and two out.
Machado slapped a single up the middle that scored two runs and turn an 8-1 runaway into an 8-5 game.
Gardenhire’s only irritant Saturday was a big inning the Tigers, in his and in Saupold’s view, had no business allowing.
“If we walk 'em, it’s not OK,” Gardenhire said of the Orioles seventh, which was built on three walks, a hit batter, and only two hits. “We can’t do it. Free bases don’t work. We gave ‘em too many and got ‘em right back in the game.
“And we can’t do that.”
Amen, said Saupold, who’s normally a strikes-thrower but who seemed to wilt as he fretted too much over Orioles power-hitting pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez, who had slammed two homers in Friday’s game. Saupold went 0-and-2 on Alvarez, his first batter, only to walk him.
He then hit Chance Sisco before getting Trey Mancini on a lineout, followed by another walk.
“I can’t nibble when we’re up by six,” Saupold said. “I got ahead 0-and-2, walked him, and that’s a no-no.”
Jimenez arrived for some emergency care and was strong: 1⅓ innings, one hit, no runs.
Shane Greene closed out the Orioles in the ninth, although not before he dispensed a one-out walk, followed by a single. Greene, though, struck out Jace Peterson, then got Machado on a pop-up to Cabrera.
The Tigers are now 11-14 heading into Sunday afternoon’s 1:05 series wrap-up. Daniel Norris will start for the Tigers against Kevin Gausman.