DETROIT -- When things are going right, the ball has a tendency to bounce in your favor. And that's exactly what happened Thursday for the suddenly-surging Orioles, who edged the Tigers, 6-5, on a bizarre checked-swing single to continue their September darling status.
Fresh off taking three of four in Boston -- and with a three-series win streak for the first time this season -- the Orioles used some dazzling defensive plays and a red-hot relief corps to upend the American League Central pennant winners, picking up their 11th victory in 16 games in the process.
"We are due for a few things to come our way," manager Buck Showalter said of Nolan Reimold's accidental RBI that held up as the game's decisive run. "We earned most of our things tonight -- you know, [Adam] Jones getting [to third base] to start with. A lot of times, not necessarily with our club but with most clubs, you get a five-run lead [and] all of a sudden its 5-5 against a team that's going to win 90-95 games. There's a lot of opportunity there to go, 'Here we go again,' but our guys didn't."
Instead, the Orioles tilted the scales back in their favor with a sixth-inning score off the end of Reimold's bat. The No. 9 hitter, Reimold tried to pull back on reliever David Pauley's pitch and ended up dribbling the ball down the third-base line to score Jones, who singled and stole second to start the frame, to take back the lead.
"It shows how well we're playing, the attitude that we have when we go and put up a five-spot and I give it back in the next inning," said rookie starter Zach Britton, who added that his teammates didn't panic when the game got tied up. "They are going out there, scoring another run and battling. And then our bullpen goes out there and shuts the door. You are seeing more of a team game. Guys are picking each other up."
And arguably no one has been a bigger pick-me-up the last few weeks than right-hander Pedro Strop, who has emerged as a viable late-inning presence for the Orioles and extended his scoreless stretch to 8 2/3 innings.
After Jason Berken posted two scoreless innings to follow Britton, who picked up the win despite a lackluster outing, Strop pitched around a one-out double from cleanup hitter Miguel Cabrera to hold off the Tigers' middle-of-the-order bats.
"I feel good about it, but I'm not impressed, because I know what I can do," said Strop, who spent most of the season in Triple-A. "I just haven't [gotten] the opportunity and I'm getting it right now, and I'm doing my thing."
Speaking of opportunities, closer Kevin Gregg made good on his chance in the ninth inning, pitching a 1-2-3 frame to pick up his first save since Sept. 2. With Jim Johnson, who has been getting nearly all of the team's save opportunities the past two weeks, unavailable to go for a fourth consecutive day, Gregg took care of the Tigers for his 21st save.
"I want every save op that I can; I think that's our job and that's what I do," Gregg said. "But I haven't been consistent at it, going through a little rough patch. And it's nice to reward J.J. for the year he has had. He deserves it. He has done an outstanding job, but I think I showed tonight I could still do it, and I still believe in myself."
"You don't do some of the things he's done in his career without some intestinal fortitude," Showalter added. "[Gregg is] not going to wallow around in self-pity."
The Orioles' offense showed no mercy on Tigers starter Jacob Turner, chasing the top pitching prospect from his third Major League start after the first four batters reached in the fourth inning with no outs. J.J. Hardy, who made a pair of outstanding defensive plays, took Turner deep with a third-inning shot, extending his career high in homers to 29, and after Matt Wieters singled to start the fourth, Jones blasted a two-run homer.
"Obviously you could see the rust on Jacob, and that was OK. We didn't expect much different," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Turner, who hadn't started since Sept. 1. "The only pitch he was getting over was the fastball, and it's pretty hard to pitch like that up here."
Britton, coming off Saturday's seven strong innings against the Angels, never looked comfortable either. The rookie tied a career high with four walks before recording an out in the fifth inning in an uncharacteristically wild start. After a pair of free passes led to a fourth-inning run, the 23-year-old coughed up the lead with a four-run fifth, with Delmon Young's three-run homer the big blow.
"I gave them a little too much credit today," said Britton, who admitted he didn't feel deserving of picking up his team-leading 11th win. "I tried to be too fine, and that got me in trouble rather than just taking the four-seam fastball and challenging these guys."
The fifth inning would be Britton's final frame, as the young lefty exited after allowing five runs on six hits and two wild pitches, notable given that he had thrown just four wild pitches total in his previous 26 starts. Britton also took Magglio Ordonez's liner off his left biceps in the fourth, which Hardy scooped up to start a double play, but said afterwards the ball hit the patch on his uniform sleeve and wasn't an issue.
"He's fine," said Showalter. "It didn't seem to change things a whole lot, negatively or positively. I think it scared him more than anything."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.