DETROIT -- Sometimes it only takes one pitch to decide a game.
For Tigers starter Rick Porcello, that was the case Saturday night, as the 23-year-old squared off against the Orioles and had thrown six scoreless innings before things unraveled in the top of the seventh.
Back-to-back weakly hit singles by the O's brought Chris Davis to the plate. Davis had entered the game hitting .176 in August, and hadn't homered since July 31. However, he got hold of a pitch by Porcello for an opposite-field three-run shot, handing his team a 3-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 42,132 at Comerica Park.
"Really, it's just one pitch I got beat on, and it wasn't even a bad pitch," Porcello said. "It happens sometimes. Sometimes you've got to tip your hat to him. It was a good piece of hitting. ... That's kind of the dagger."
Until the seventh, the sinkerballer had been cruising. He had allowed only three hits and a walk. One runner -- Robert Andino in the third -- had made it into scoring position.
It took two pitches in the seventh for things to begin falling apart. Adam Jones blooped a first-pitch fastball to center field for a base hit. Matt Wieters followed with his own first-pitch infield single to put runners on first and second with none out.
"You can't ask for anything better than what Ricky threw, especially in that inning," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "Broken-bat base hit, two infield singles, that's tough to swallow there."
It took a total of five pitches for the Orioles to plate all three of their runs, as Davis hit a 1-1 sinker over the left-field fence. After the game, Porcello said he couldn't have made a better pitch.
"It was a sinker down and away," he said. "We had first and second, nobody out, looking to get a ground ball. Obviously, that's the pitch I get ground balls with. He took the changeup down for a ball, then swung through the fastball.
"There's nothing else in my head. It's, 'Here it is.' It's that point in the game where if you're going to get beat, you're going to be beat with your best weapons, and he got me."
It was Davis' second career hit off Porcello and first career RBIs. He entered the game 0-for-3 against the right-hander, and had collected his first hit with a single in the second. When he connected in the seventh, he didn't know it had enough to get out.
"This is a huge park," Davis said. "With the way Prince [Fielder] and [Miguel] Cabrera are swinging it you wouldn't think so, but I was just glad to get the job done. That was huge for us."
Between Porcello and O's left-hander Zach Britton, it had been a pitchers' duel for most of the night. Despite Britton's 8.10 ERA coming into the contest, he contained the Detroit lineup, escaping jams to pitch seven scoreless innings.
"He was nasty," Avila said of Britton.
The seven innings were a season high for Britton, who had allowed four runs or more in four of his five starts this year. The Tigers had their chances, they just couldn't swing the momentum in their favor.
They left a total of six runners on base, all in the first three innings, and were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the night.
"Right off the bat we had a couple opportunities [and] we didn't take advantage of it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Sometimes in games that comes back to haunt you, and that's probably what happened for us tonight."
With one out in the first, the Tigers loaded the bases on singles from Omar Infante and Cabrera, and a walk from Fielder.
But Jhonny Peralta, serving as Fielder's protection batting in the fifth spot, grounded into a double play. It was the first of three double plays for the Tigers in the game, and the first of two with runners in scoring position.
The final double-play ball came in the sixth. Britton gave up a single to Cabrera and walked Fielder. Peralta struck out, and Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy then made a nice stop to turn a double play on a ground ball up the middle by Delmon Young.
"That kid's a pretty good shortstop," Leyland said. "When he first hit it off the bat, I thought it was a base hit up the middle, to be honest with you."
Peralta, who had been 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, redeemed himself with a two-run base hit against reliever Pedro Strop in the eighth.
With the White Sox losing to the Royals, 9-4, the Tigers remain 1 1/2 games back in the American League Central. However, the loss moved them out of a three-way tie in the AL Wild Card race, and they are now a game back of the Orioles and Rays for one of the final two playoff spots.
And for Porcello, it all goes back to one pitch.
"I didn't have any other pitch in my mind, and I got beat on it. There's really nothing else to say," he said. "[Davis] was better than me on that particular pitch, and that's pretty much the bottom line."
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.