DETROIT -- For three hours Tuesday, Johnny Damon's 2,500th career hit seemed sure to be the highlight of his night.
It didn't end up that way.Damon's next hit was a game-ending homer in the 11th inning as the Detroit Tigers rallied to beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-5."The ball from my 2,500th hit is going in the trophy case, but No. 2,501 is the one I'm going to remember for a long time," Damon said. "Hitting a homer in a situation like that never gets old."Austin Jackson led off the inning with a single off David Hernandez (3-7). Damon followed by hitting an 0-2 pitch so hard that Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis immediately walked off the field, not even turning around as the ball sailed over his head."I thought about having him bunt, because we had Magglio [Ordonez] and Miguel [Cabrera] coming up, but I decided that the guy has 2,500 hits, so I might as well let him have a chance," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It might have looked smart, but it wasn't any more complicated than that."Damon had singled in the third inning for his milestone and received a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd of 22,532."This is my first year here, and I've been OK, but I've wanted to do a lot more than I have," Damon said. "That's why it meant the world to me to get that kind of reaction. I've always thought Detroit had great fans, but tonight cemented that in my heart."Hernandez was pitching his second inning after Baltimore closer Alfredo Simon had blown what would have been the first multi-inning save of his career. The Orioles bullpen was depleted after Kevin Millwood had lasted just one inning in Monday night's game."We're not getting wins in bunches right now, so we decided to go for it when we had the chance," Orioles manager Juan Samuel said. "We thought Alfredo could get five outs, and we thought David had looked strong in his first inning, but that team has a lot of dangerous hitters."The Tigers trailed 4-1 going into the eighth, but Cabrera led off with a triple and scored on Brennan Boesch's single. Brandon Inge's one-out triple scored Boesch to make it 4-3 before Simon struck out Alex Avila.Ramon Santiago walked, but Jackson, pinch-hitting, bounced out to end the inning. Julio Lugo made it 5-3 with an RBI single in the ninth.Damon walked to lead off the ninth before Cabrera tied the game with the long homer off Simon."That guy throws too hard to try to hit a homer off him," said Cabrera, who fell a double short of the cycle. "If you do that, you are just going to pop it up. I was trying to make contact, and I hit it hard."Cabrera and Damon's late-inning homers both landed deep in the stands."There's no defense against balls hit like that," Leyland said. "When you've got guys who can hit them out there, there's nothing the other guys can do about it."Ryan Perry (2-4) got the win with a scoreless inning of relief.The Orioles stranded 10 runners in the first six innings but finally broke through against Armando Galarraga on Markakis' two-run homer in the seventh. Felix Pie, activated from the disabled list before the game, added an RBI single later in the inning.Baltimore got a break in the bottom of the inning. After Santiago walked, Don Kelly hit a hard grounder off first baseman Ty Wigginton's glove, but the ball bounced right to Lugo, who threw back to Wigginton for the rare 3-4-3 putout.Markakis added an RBI single in the eighth before Detroit's rally in the bottom of the inning."We had a lot of opportunities to score more runs, but even then, we still had the lead going into the ninth inning," Samuel said. "At some point, we've got to start closing out these games and get some wins."Detroit had taken a 1-0 lead on Avila's RBI single in the second and kept the lead in the third when Kelly's diving catch in center field robbed Wigginton of an RBI single.
After the game, Galarraga was optioned to Triple-A Toledo in a planned move. Because of the All-Star break, the Tigers will not need a fifth starter until July 20, so Galarraga will make a start in Toledo on July 15 to avoid rust. ... To replace Galarraga, the Tigers purchased the contract of reliever Robbie Weinhardt. ... Pie replaced Millwood, who was placed on the DL with a strained forearm. ... Wieters hit his second career triple in the seventh inning -- both coming against the Tigers. ... Damon joins former teammates Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as the only active players with 2,500 hits, 1,500 runs and 1,000 RBIs. ... Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 15 games. ... Michigan native Mike Modano, currently a free agent, spent the game in the suite of Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch.