Thursday, July 3, 2008
Mike Smith, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #428
This Day in Orioles History: July 3, 1989
Orioles 11, Tigers 4 at Memorial Stadium
The surprising young Orioles maintained a solid grip on first place in the American League East and salvaged a split of a four-game series with the Tigers. The Birds jumped all over Detroit starter (and former Oriole) Doyle Alexander, knocking him out of the box in the third inning with five early runs. They kept up the pressure throughout, scoring eleven runs on fifteen hits. The big blow was a three-run home run by Mickey Tettleton, but outfielder Phil Bradley also shone with three hits (including a double and a triple) and three runs batted in.
Of course, the O's had their own pitching problems early in the game. Brian Holton left in the fourth inning having allowed three runs and was relieved by rookie "Texas" Mike Smith. He got the moniker because there had been two righthanded pitchers named Michael Anthony Smith in Baltimore's spring camp. Coaches and teammates differentiated between the two based on their home states; the other Mike Smith was known as "Mississippi Mike". Texas Mike had made a disastrous big league debut three days prior to this game, getting racked for eight runs in just an inning and one-third against those same Tigers. Charged with protecting a 5-3 lead in his second appearance, Smith was like a different pitcher. He stranded two inherited runners on his way to four innings of two-hit relief. Texas Mike lowered his ERA from 54.00 to 13.50, but more importantly he earned his first major league victory (Holton did not last the five innings necessary to receive credit for the win).
At the end of the day, the Orioles stood on top of the AL East by a six and a half game margin. They would not relinquish control of the division until September, a remarkable turnaround for a team that had lost 107 games (including the first 21 games of the season) in 1988.