BALTIMORE (AP) — Nothing ever comes easy for the Baltimore Orioles, who found a way to make a tense situation out of a seven-run, ninth-inning lead.
Nick Markakis homered and drove in four runs, Jo-Jo Reyes allowed four hits over six innings to earn his first win with Baltimore, and the Orioles held off the Detroit Tigers 8-5 Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep.
Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones had three hits apiece for the Orioles, who got off to a quick start in their second win in eight games. Baltimore led 3-0 after two innings, added three runs in fifth and two in the sixth for an 8-1 cushion.
Then came the ninth. Less than 24 hours after the Orioles blew a five-run advantage in a 6-5 loss, Baltimore closer Kevin Gregg nearly gave away an even larger lead.
After three singles loaded the bases with no outs, Gregg walked Alex Avila and Ramon Santiago to force in two runs, and Austin Jackson followed with an RBI single to make it 8-4.
Jim Johnson entered and struck out Andy Dirks, then gave up a run-scoring grounder to Magglio Ordonez before walking Miguel Cabrera intentionally to load the bases for pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch, who hit a slicing liner to left that Reimold nabbed on the run for the final out. Rymes was batting in the spot filled by slugger Victor Martinez, who was lifted earlier in the inning for a pinch runner.
“Fortunately for us, Victor has a bad knee and had to come out of the game,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We’re also fortunate to have J.J. there.”
It was Johnson’s second save. Afterward, Gregg was really in no mood to discuss his 23-pitch performance.
“Let’s keep it about the team,” Gregg said. “I didn’t have a good day, but we did a lot of positive things.”
Baltimore put a solid finish on a 3-7 homestand with a strong performance by Reyes (6-9), who gave up one run, struck out four and walked two. Obtained off waivers from Toronto on Aug. 2, the left-hander is 1-1 with a 4.22 ERA in three appearances with the Orioles, including two starts.
Markakis homered with a man on in the first inning and added RBI singles in the fifth and sixth. After going hitless in his previous two games, Markakis now has hit in 178 consecutive series, the longest active streak in the majors.
Santiago hit his second homer in 150 at-bats this season, but the Tigers had to settle for a 5-4 road trip that began in Kansas City and went through Cleveland.
“It’s good to make a rally against Kevin Gregg,” Santiago said, “but Jim Johnson got good stuff. He shut it down.”
“Today we fell a little bit short, but we played it right out to the end we just didn’t get it,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who lamented his decision to remove Martinez in the ninth for pinch-runner Will Rhymes.
“I made a move that just backfired. I was trying to save Victor some,” Leyland said. “I still felt good with Boeschy going up there, particularly in this park, but it just was a move that didn’t work out.”
Doug Fister (4-13) yielded eight runs, six earned, on 12 hits over 5 2/3 innings. It was his third start with Detroit since coming over in a six-player deal with Seattle on July 30. He’s 1-1 with the Tigers but 10-27 overall since the start of the 2010 season.
Fister kept Detroit within striking range until the fifth, when the Orioles used four hits to take a 6-1 lead. Reimold led off with a double and scored a single by Markakis. Jones followed with a single, and Markakis drew a throw on his sprint to third base, enabling Jones to take second. Vladimir Guerrero followed with a two-run single.
Baltimore chased Fister in the sixth. Run-scoring singles by Markakis and Jones put the Orioles up by seven runs, their biggest lead since July 26, in a 12-4 win at Toronto.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)