DETROIT (AP) — There was only one fitting way for a four-game series between the major leagues’ worst teams to end — with no one winning.
In the first series in American League history between teams 50 or more games under .500, the Detroit Tigers beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 on Monday to earn a split.
“That was a nice win,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We got an early lead against a pretty good pitcher and we held on.”
Detroit (45-104) has a 3½ game “lead” over Baltimore (49-101) for the top pick in June’s amateur draft, which goes to the club with the lowest winning percentage this season.
Detroit needs to win one of its final six games at Comerica Park to avoid breaking the major league record of 59 home losses, set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns.
Tyler Alexander (1-3), a 24-year-old left-hander forced into the rotation by a doubleheader last week, got his first big league win. Before a crowd announced at 14,142, he allowed one run and four hits in six innings during his first major league start since Aug. 7.
“Tyler has pitched pretty well for us, both as a starter and a reliever, and he really pulled everything together,” Gardenhire said.
Joe Jiménez retired the first two batters in the ninth before the Orioles loaded the bases on three singles. Trey Mancini, who hit his third homer of the series in the sixth inning, struck out on three pitches.
“That was terrible,” Mancini said. “I felt really good about my series, and then I end it by chasing two bad pitches in a key situation. I was clearly trying to do too much.”
John Means (10-11) gave up five runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“They were aggressive, and they had a pretty good game plan,” he said. “I was in attack mode, but they were able to do damage.”
Detroit led 2-0 after its first two batters. Victor Reyes tripled over center fielder Austin Hays, and Jordy Mercer hit the next pitch into the Baltimore bullpen in left-center for his ninth homer. Reyes made it 4-0 with a two-out, two-run double in the fifth, and Dawel Lugo hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
“I guess I’m a brilliant manager, because I got our two hottest hitters — Victor and Jordy — up in big situations,” Gardenhire said. “I wish I had been doing that all season.”
Baltimore struggled against Alexander, who pitched the first five innings in under an hour.
“He threw the ball really well, but we made it easy for him,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “We weren’t getting him deep into counts.”
Jonathan Villar led off the seventh with a triple off José Cisnero and scored on Hays’ single.
Buck Farmer, dealing with a racing heartbeat, threw two fastballs up and in to Renato Núñez in the eighth inning, hitting him on a hand on the second one.
Núñez yelled at Farmer in anger before going to first base for treatment from the training staff. Orioles reliever then hit Jeimer Candelario with the first pitch of the Tigers eighth, leading plate umpire Roberto Ortiz to warn both benches.
“That was absurd,” Gardenhire said. “Buck had to come out of the game because of his heart rate, and he certainly wasn’t trying to hit anyone with two out and two strikes. … Then they hit our guy, which was silly, and the umpire warned the dugouts, which was silly.”
Orioles LF Stevie Wilkerson and RF Anthony Santander recorded an assist on the same play in the fifth inning. Reyes overran second on his two-run double, hoping to draw a throw that would ensure a second run scored. Wilkerson’s throw was on target, but Reyes stayed in the rundown long enough that Santander ended up coming in from right to take part in a 7-6-3-5-9-3-4 putout.
“I wanted to keep going so they would throw and make sure we got two runs,” Reyes said, through an interpreter. “I stayed alive for a while – I’ve been working hard on my baserunning.”
Orioles: DH Mark Trumbo was a late scratch from the Baltimore lineup because of a trapezius strain. . X-rays on Núñez’s hand were negative.
Tigers: DH Miguel Cabrera returned to the lineup after a flareup in his right knee forced him to leave Saturday’s game early and sit out on Sunday. . Farmer’s heart was checked after he left the game, but Gardenhire said he was fine.
Orioles: Baltimore starts a three-game series Tuesday against visiting Toronto, which starts RHP Trent Thornton (5-9, 5.04).
Tigers: Detroit heads across Lake Erie for three games against the Indians, who are 15-1 against the Tigers this season. With Matthew Boyd away from the team due to a family emergency, Detroit will use its bullpen Tuesday against RHP Adam Plutko (6-4).