Joba Chamberlain blows big lead for Tigers as Orioles rally for 7-6 win

Joba Chamberlain exits after giving up three runs as the Tigers bullpen falls apart again.Rob Carr/Getty Images Joba Chamberlain exits after giving up three runs as the Tigers bullpen falls apart again.

BALTIMORE − The unraveling of the Detroit Tigers’ season began with a doff of the cap by Joba Chamberlain. Orioles fans offered a lusty cheer when he entered in the eighth inning on Friday, an obvious reference to his struggle the night before.

The heavily bearded former Yankee, whose time in New York began as a Disney movie and devolved into David Lynch, appeared to tip his hat in acknowledgment, although he would later claim otherwise. There was no disputing what happened next.

Inheriting a 6-3 lead, Chamberlain hit a batter, allowed two singles, and left with one out and a run in. His replacement, Joakim Soria, surrendered a three-run double to Delmon Young, and the Tigers lost Game 2 of the American League division series to Baltimore, 7-6.

Largely because of a bullpen that has already allowed 10 runs, the Tigers return home down two games to none, and with relievers who seem incapable of supporting a stellar offense and rotation. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander have already started games that ended in Detroit losses; David Price and Rick Porcello await.

Aside from calling on starter Anibal Sanchez, who was effective on Friday in relief, manager Brad Ausmus has few options other than to hope his bullpen is better, before the season ends. “If we have a lead in the eighth inning on Sunday, we’re going to have to find somebody,” Ausmus said.

For the first two games, he found Chamberlain. The longtime Yankee has served as a decent setup man during his first year in Detroit, although he slumped in the second half. But in the playoffs, Chamberlain and Soria have only fueled the Orioles offense and fans.

For much of the afternoon, Oriole Park at Camden Yards was not as happy a place. Verlander bent first, allowing a two-run homer to right by Nick Markakis in the third, but Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen could not survive the fourth, allowing five runs.

Leading by three in the eighth, Ausmus called for Chamberlain, who brightened Yankee Stadium as a rookie in 2007 — and lit up the Baltimore crowd on this day, but for a different reason.

Orioles fans, clearly remembering the two hits and one earned run charged to Chamberlain the night before, greeted him with a lusty cheer. The reliever removed his cap and waved it, but later denied that he was playing with his tormentors.

“Just adjusting my hat,” he said.

The next sequence was not open to interpretation. Groundout. Adam Jones hit by a pitch, when Chamberlain was trying to establish himself inside. Nelson Cruz single. Steve Pearce single, scoring Jones. Ausmus emerging from the dugout, and summoning Soria. Young with the bases-clearing double. The Tigers virtually dead.

“This one’s on me,” Chamberlain said. “If I don’t put us in that situation, Soria doesn’t have to come in in that situation.”

This man is an eight-year veteran, who has seen stories written about his mother’s drug arrest, and his own DUI charge. He has been celebrated and vilified in New York, assaulted by midges in Cleveland, and shushed by Mariano Rivera in Kansas City. Friday’s loss was a difficult moment, but hardly his most challenging.

“Nothing is going to catch me off guard in this game,” Chamberlain said. “I can promise you that.”

Chamberlain did project a hard-earned poise on Friday, befitting of a man who has collected so much life experience before turning 30. The veteran Tigers, too, offered a general tone of “hey, we’re going home, we’ve got Price and Porcello, we’re far from dead.” Yes, but here’s the problem: They’re taking Chamberlain, Soria and the rest of the bullpen with them.

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