The Detroit Tigers played the role of law enforcement at Camden Yards this week, breaking up the Orioles party. The O’s had peeled off five straight wins, including a sweep at Tampa Bay and two of three against Houston at home. But after losing the last game of the Houston series, the ballpark had a weird mojo, a kind of stink like somebody left the refrigerator door open and the potato salad went bad.
Because by the time the Tigers got to Baltimore, the fun was long over.
Let’s just face the facts: The Orioles are good. The Tigers are better. Not a whole lot better. But just enough to make O’s fans mad.
Monday night, after the Tigers blew open a nailbiter of a ballgame, O’s starter Bud Norris threw a 93-mph fastball right into Torii Hunter’s ribs. Hunter thought it was fishy and had some words with Norris and the benches emptied. Nobody threw any punches, but the Orioles wanted to. Hunter was the angry drunk stranger at the bar who starts a fight with the regular everybody loves.
That incident served as tidy metaphor for the whole series. The talented kid went toe-to-toe with the big, bad bruiser. But the bruiser isn’t called the bruiser for nothing. By the end of the series, Detroit took all three and left town without paying their hotel bill.
Smitty, you don’t know that.
No, I don’t. But that’s the vibe they left behind. Wednesday afternoon, on the way to sweeping the series, the Tigers held a 6-0 lead as Justin Verlander whizzed a fastball behind the O’s Nelson Cruz. Next thing you know, Baltimore was awake, scoring five runs off Verlander the next inning, including a Cruz homer. But the Tigers hung on for a 7-5 win and¬†the whole town watched as the gunslinger rode out of town, nice and slow.
Come on, smitty! You’re all over the place. Cops at a party, spoiled potato salad, a barroom fight and a cowboy movie.¬†
Sure, it’s a little sloppy. But I’m making a point. The Orioles might be in first place in the American League East. And the east might be beating up on itself, with the whole division hanging near .500. And Oakland’s enjoying a nice solid start to 2014. But Detroit is the dominator. They’re the team you’re going to have to knock off if you think you’re good enough to win the pennant. And here’s the news: you’re not. The Tigers are. Starters who are tenacious and who actually pitch deep into games. And the offense is pretty good, too. Kinsler, Hunter, Cabrera, Martinez … that’s a tough lineup.
The O’s travel to Kansas City now. They learned last season that KC is no longer a pushover. It’s time to get the party mojo back, though. Time to ruin the Royals’ carpet and lay a patch in the driveway.