BALTIMORE -- The Orioles were hoping for big things when the second half began Friday night. They had stumbled into the All-Star break with problems hitting, pitching and on defense and hoped the four-day break could rejuvenate them.
But the opening game saw everything fall apart on one pitch in the top of the fourth. Starter Jason Hammel came up limping and in pain after throwing a 1-2 pitch to leadoff hitter Brennan Boesch. Hammel's right knee was clearly bothering him again, and he left the game. That seemed to deflate the Orioles, and the Tigers rolled to a 7-2 victory before 35,566 at Camden Yards.
Hammel (8-6) has been battling problems with a sore right knee for much of this season. Manager Buck Showalter said the Orioles have given him extra days off before starts about half of the time to help quiet the knee. But Hammel was clearly in pain following the ball he threw to Boesch, and Showalter pulled him after a few practice pitches.
"He's had some pitches he's thrown this year where it bit him a little bit and then went away," Showalter said. "This one didn't go away. He's got an MRI scheduled for tomorrow at [1 p.m.] We'll get an idea and see if we can compare it to the last one, see if anything's changed in there."
Hammel gave up two runs on four singles in the first inning but seemed to be settling into a groove after that.
He struck out five, walked one and breezed through the next two innings before the problems hit with Boesch up leading off the fourth.
"I was driving toward the plate and it didn't feel good," Hammel said. "Something felt really bad. It's [the] same area as the injury was before. It's kind of just day-to-day. We scheduled an MRI ... but as of right now, we don't really know what's going on here."
The Baltimore clubhouse was very quiet, almost somber after the game. Losing a top pitcher is something that will bother any team, and Hammel's easily been the team's top starter this season.
Hammel came over from the Rockies in the Jeremy Guthrie deal and has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the first half of this season. He's been dominant when good and kept the Orioles (45-41) in most of his starts.
In addition, he was one of the final five players in the vote for the last spot on the American League All-Star team. Hammel's been an anchor for the starting rotation, which really had problems in recent weeks. Three of the five starters on the Opening Day roster were sent down to Triple-A Norfolk, and that's why Hammel is so important.
The Tigers had taken a 2-0 lead on Boesch's two-run single in the first. After Hammel came out, an RBI double by Ryan Raburn in the fourth plus homers from Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta in the fifth broke the game open. Peralta blasted a three-run shot off Dana Eveland to give Detroit (45-42) a 7-1 lead in the fifth.
That was more than enough for Tigers starter Doug Fister (3-6). He gave up just one run on three hits in seven innings, striking out eight and walking none. He turned in one of his best efforts of the season.
"I liked the way he was breaking some bats," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "That means that they're mis-hitting the ball. The ball was moving late like it does for him."
The Orioles finished with just five hits overall and got runs on RBI doubles from Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters. Markakis got the only RBI off Fister and that came in the third, cutting Detroit's lead to 2-1.
This was Markakis' first game back after missing about six weeks following breaking a bone in his wrist. Showalter moved Markakis into the leadoff spot -- he's batted third all year and never hit first in his career -- hoping he could give the line-up a jolt.
But the Orioles got three of their five hits in the final two innings after the Tigers had the six-run lead and had taken control.
Now, the Orioles have to wait and hope everything's all right with Hammel's MRI.
"It's baseball, it's a professional sport," said Adam Jones. "Things happen. Injuries happen. You've got to take them as they come."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.