Detroit Tigers take down Baltimore Orioles, 6-2, in series finale

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The Detroit Tigers didn't wait to punch back.

Trailing by two runs in the first inning, the Tigers (51-57) posted three runs in their first offensive opportunity. Getting to Baltimore Orioles starter Spenser Watkins — formerly in the Tigers' farm system — before he settled in was crucial to securing a 6-2 victory at Comerica Park.

Detroit is 42-33 since May 8 and 11-6 since the All-Star break.

The Tigers and Orioles split the four-game series.

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Tigers catcher Eric Haase connects for a two-run double to center during the first inning on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, at Comerica Park.
Tigers catcher Eric Haase connects for a two-run double to center during the first inning on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, at Comerica Park.

The Tigers responded to their 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the first inning. Despite two quick outs from Akil Baddoo and Jonathan Schoop, an eight-pitch walk from Robbie Grossman ignited Watkins' trouble. He then walked Miguel Cabrera on five pitches.

Jeimer Candelario's hit was deflected by Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini, allowing Candelario to reach safely with a single and plate the Tigers' first run. Eric Haase followed with a 425-foot two-run double off the center field wall — 108.9 mph exit velocity — for a 3-2 lead.

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Following Haase's double, Watkins retired the next 14 batters he faced.

Grossman snapped his streak with one out in the sixth inning, clobbering an 0-2 fastball into the right-center gap for a stand-up triple. Cabrera scored him for a 4-2 lead with a sacrifice fly to right field, which chased Watkins from his start.

Watkins allowed four runs on three hits and two walks with four strikeouts over 5⅔ innings.

The Tigers selected Watkins in the 30th round (No. 910 overall) in the 2014 draft from Western Oregon. The 28-year-old was released by the Tigers in July 2020 and signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles in February 2021.

To secure the victory, the Tigers received scoreless innings from their top three relievers: Jose Cisnero in the seventh, Michael Fulmer in the eighth and Gregory Soto in the ninth.

In a lefty-lefty matchup with reliever Keegan Akin, Baddoo made it a three-run lead with an RBI single in the seventh inning. Grossman's sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 6-2. The Orioles replaced Akin with righty Shaun Anderson to face Cabrera, who drew a two-out walk to load the bases.

Candelario popped out in foul territory to end the seventh and strand three runners.

Alexander gets comfy

The top of the first inning wasn't left-handed starter Alexander's best performance, as the Orioles hit him hard for three doubles and two runs: Austin Hayes (102.7 mph exit velocity), Ryan Mountcastle (102.6 mph) and Anthony Santander (106.5 mph).

Even Mancini's fly out to deep right field was drilled with a 101 mph exit velocity. The doubles from Mountcastle and Santander each drove in one run. With two outs, Alexander walked Ryan McKenna but escaped the jam.

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Tigers pitcher Tyler Alexander throws during the second inning on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, at Comerica Park.
Tigers pitcher Tyler Alexander throws during the second inning on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, at Comerica Park.

After McKenna's walk, Alexander sent down 10 of the final 12 batters he faced. The only runners to reach were Santander (single) in the third inning and Austin Wynns (walk) in the fourth. To conclude his start, Alexander found himself in a 12-pitch battle with Domingo Leyba.

During Leyba's at-bat, a wild pitch advanced Wynns to second base.

But Alexander worked Leyba for a groundout to shortstop, ending the threat and his start. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts, throwing 43 of 67 pitches for strikes.

Haase in July

What Haase provided the Tigers in the first inning — a two-out, two-run double — was simply the continuation of his production through July. The calendar turned to August on Sunday, but Haase's accomplishments made July a month to remember.

In July, the 28-year-old rookie hit .265 with three doubles, nine home runs, 29 RBIs, six walks and 26 strikeouts over 23 games (21 starts). He had a .319 on-base percentage, .627 slugging percentage and .945 on-base plus slugging percentage.

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Haase produced two homers and a .212 batting average over 14 games in May and seven homers and a .250 batting average over 21 games in June. Overall, Haase is hitting .246 with 18 home runs and 46 RBIs in 59 games this season.

Ramirez heating up

For the fifth inning, righty reliever Erasmo Ramirez took over for Alexander.

He pitched consecutive perfect innings, carrying the Tigers through the fifth and sixth without damage. Ramirez tossed 14 of 20 pitches for strikes and recorded one strikeout.

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Orioles center fielder Ryan McKenna looks back to umpire Marvin Hudson after being called out on strikes during the fourth inning on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, at Comerica Park.
Orioles center fielder Ryan McKenna looks back to umpire Marvin Hudson after being called out on strikes during the fourth inning on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, at Comerica Park.

Ramirez, 31, has completed 7⅓ scoreless innings in a row over his past four games, allowing just two hits and one walk with five strikeouts. During this stretch of success, 68.4% of his pitches have gone for strikes and opponents have a .083 batting average.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers top Baltimore Orioles, 6-2, to split series