BALTIMORE — About 1,000 Orioles fans left the stadium en masse in protest Thursday, missing a 4-3 Baltimore comeback victory that temporarily knocked the Detroit Tigers out of first place.
The Tigers built a three-run lead, but the Orioles' Melvin Mora doubled in two runs in the eighth inning.
Detroit retained its half-game lead in the American League Central when the second-place Minnesota Twins lost 6-0 at Boston.
Magglio Ordonez and Curtis Granderson homered for the Tigers, who were forced into a stopover in Baltimore to make up a May 11 rainout. Detroit played in Chicago on Wednesday night, then hurried to the East Coast before opening a three-game series against Kansas City today.
"No excuses here," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Kris Benson (11-11) allowed three runs and eight hits in eight innings for the Orioles. He walked off the mound with Baltimore trailing by a run, but ended up earning his first win since Aug. 18.
Nearly a thousand disgruntled Orioles fans walked out of the game in the fourth inning, culminating a demonstration aimed at team owner Peter Angelos, who has been in charge of the team during its club-record run of nine consecutive losing seasons.
A majority of the protesters wore black T-shirts that read "FREE THE BIRDS," and many carried signs that had "For Pete's Sake" on one side and "Free the Birds" on the other.
They filled parts of six sections in the upper deck, then walked out in the middle of the fourth inning.
The group walked in line through the lower deck before departing.
"We are here to show our dissatisfaction with his role, and some of the stupid decisions he has made," said fan Eric Hunter. "We want someone in there who will spend the money to do the things that will bring the fans back."
Angelos defended the fashion in which he runs the team, which last reached the playoffs in 1997.
"Whoever joins that protest has no comprehension of what it costs to run a baseball team," Angelos said in a telephone interview from his law office in Baltimore.
"Our payroll is $75 million, and our ticket prices average $22. Some of the teams we compete against charge an average of $45," Angelos said. "We're going to have to match the competition. How to do that is a decision I will make in the future."
The rally was organized by Nestor Aparicio, owner of radio station WNST-AM and the nephew of former Oriole shortstop Luis Aparicio.
"We have a chance to make a memorable civic statement about how we, as fans, are fed up with the embarrassment that the Orioles have become," Aparicio said.
Angelos' reply: "He is a very unimportant person who has delusions of grandeur. To begin with, to leave in the middle of the game is an abuse of the players who have worked hard and played their hearts out."