Offensive eruption, lights-out 'pen power Orioles to 12-3 win over Tigers in ALDS Game 1
The stage was set in Baltimore for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday night. The Orioles had the division long clinched, their No. 1 starter lined up and a sold-out Camden Yards ready to rock. The Tigers squeaked in with the AL Central crown and their own co-ace -- righty Max Scherzer -- taking the ball opposite Chris Tillman.
Both clubs entered looking to avenge recent playoff losses. The Tigers dropped last year's ALCS to the Red Sox, while the Orioles hadn't played October baseball since losing a five-game ALDS to the Yankees in 2012.
Nelson Cruz last played (read: tormented) the Tigers in the postseason during the 2011 ALCS, when he hit six homers in six games. He picked up right where he left off Thursday, walloping a first-pitch fastball from Scherzer to right field for a 2-0 Baltimore lead.
Per Os Pr: Cruz's 15th career postseason homer. Ties him for 10th on all time list with some guy named Babe Ruth.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) October 2, 2014
The Tigers knotted the score at 2 before making another out. The Martinezes -- first Victor, then J.D. -- launched back-to-back homers to nearly the same place in right field.
Nick Markakis continued the early slugfest when he put Baltimore on top 3-2 with a soft fly ball that fell in for a two-out RBI single in the second. Ryan Flaherty scored from third. The O's never relinquished that lead.
After Torii Hunter lined into a double play to clear the bases in the eighth, Miguel Cabrera trimmed the Orioles' lead back down to one with a shot to right-center. It mattered little when Baltimore blew the game open with eight runs against Scherzer and three relievers in the eighth for a 12-3 lead.
Max Scherzer paced dugout after exit, still frustrated at himself. He lasted 7 1/3 after 3 runs in 1st 10 batters, but paid for longball.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) October 3, 2014
And yes, it could be the parting look from Scherzer's final outing as a Tiger, depending on how series unfolds.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) October 3, 2014
Jonathan Schoop's line-drive double to right plated two of the four two-out runs.
The Game Changer
Orioles manager Buck Showalter pulled all the right bullpen strings Thursday. His Detroit counterpart, Brad Ausmus, did not.
First, Showalter decided five innings and 100-plus pitches were enough for Tillman and gave the ball to lanky lefty Andrew Miller for the sixth -- his first time pitching that early for the Orioles. Five outs later, Miller departed to a standing ovation.
Darren O'Day finished the seventh and started the eighth, the Cabrera homer the only real blemish. Then Showalter went to closer Zach Britton for the final out of the eighth. Setup man Tommy Hunter pitched a scoreless ninth after the O's blew it open.
The Detroit trio of Joba Chamberlain (one earned run), Joakim Soria (four earned runs) and Phil Coke (one earned run) allowed seven runs (six earned) while recording a combined two outs.
The final two came on Alejandro De Aza's double to center fielder Adam Jones, scoring Schoop and Markakis
Other Key Players, Plays
Tillman lasted only five innings and 105 pitches, but the first inning gave the loud crowd of 47,842 at Camden Yards a reason to get louder. Tillman struck out Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter and Cabrera swinging on fastballs in order.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, De Aza tried to get something going by bunting toward third. Nick Castellanos decided it just would not do. The Detroit third baseman smoothly barehanded the slow roller and fired to first in time.
An inning later, J.D. Martinez made a highlight-reel play of his own to help keep the game close. Steve Pearce lined a ball off the left-field wall, and after a fortuitous hop, Martinez threw a frozen rope to gun down Pearce at second.
J.J. Hardy came through in the seventh with what at the time seemed like a big insurance run. Scherzer's 1-1 changeup over the heart of the plate landed in the seats in left-center.
These teams won't get a whole lot of time off. Game 2 is set for noon ET on Friday at Camden Yards, with Tigers righty Justin Verlander looking to help Detroit pull even against Baltimore southpaw Wei-Yin Chen.
Verlander (4.54 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) allowed the Orioles seven runs in 14 innings across two starts in 2014, while Chen (3.54 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) didn't see the Tigers during the regular season.