Sports

MLB Playoffs

Orioles knock around Tigers in Game 1 of ALDS

By Bob Elliott, Toronto Sun

Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz celebrates a home run against the Detroit Tigers with teammates during Game 1 of their American League Division Series at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Oct. 2, 2014. (TOMMY GILLIGAN/USA Today)

Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz celebrates a home run against the Detroit Tigers with teammates during Game 1 of their American League Division Series at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Oct. 2, 2014. (TOMMY GILLIGAN/USA Today)

BALTIMORE - 

Here in Baltimore, they know crab cakes, Babe Ruth’s exploits and Boog’s barbecue.

And, above all else, they know Cy Young Award winners.

Like former O’s greats Mike Cuellar, Steve Stone, the late great Mike Flanagan and three-time Cy Young winner Jim Palmer, who still looks like he could work on three days rest if they would ever give a day off from the broadcast booth.

On Thursday night, the O’s treated reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer like a fifth starter, then beat up the Tigers bullpen as if it were three guys rehabbing during an instructional league game.

The result was a 12-3 beating — thanks to an eight-run eighth, the O’s largest inning of the season — in Game 1 of the best-of-five American League Division Series before 47,842 fans at Camden Yards.

Baltimore homered twice off Scherzer — Nelson Cruz in the first for a 2-0 lead and J.J. Hardy in the seventh for a 4-2 lead, accounting for three runs off Scherzer, who walked off the mound in the eighth, down by two with one a man on second and one out.

What came next was as if Jose Valverde, Fred Gladding and Hank Aguirre all showed up well past their prime.

“We don’t care who is on the mound,” said Adam Jones. “We go out and grind. This game was a lot like our style. It’s not conventional, but we hack. Sometimes it clicks.”

O’s starter Tillman looked like a Cy Young candidate himself early on, striking out Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera in the first before a two-Martinez second. First, Victor Martinez, on a 2-2 pitch, and then J.D. Martinez, on a 2-1 pitch, went deep to right, tying the game.

Cruz’s first-inning homer was the 15th of his post-season career. And thanks to six long balls in the 2011 American League Championship Series, Cruz now has as many playoff homers as Ruth, Baltimore’s born and bred hometown slugger in his Hall of Fame career.

The O’s took a 3-2 lead in the second on a Nick Markakis single and Tillman retired 11 straight until a two-out single by Andrew Romine in the fifth.

The top of the eighth provided drama as Kinsler, who fouled off 15 Tillman pitches on the night, led off with an infield, but was erased on Hunter’s line drive as Kinsler broke for second on his own. That proved to be rather large as the next batter up, Cabrera, homered, making it only a one-run game.

The combined line on the three free-agent pitchers so far in these playoffs isn’t real good, but it’s early. Jon Lester, James Shields and Scherzer have now worked 19.2 innings, allowing 15 runs on 20 hits and five walks.

The Orioles bullpen — aside from Darren O’Day allowing the Cabrera homer — did its job. Andrew Miller took over in the sixth with Tillman gone and retired four batters, striking out Victor Martinez, who fanned only three times in 106 September at-bats, and two others. Zach Britton also retired Victor Martinez, after it became a one-run game in the eighth, and Tommy Hunter worked a scoreless ninth.

“When we have the lead with Chris Tillman on the mound, he’s able to shut things down,” said Cruz. “After that, we were happy to go to our bullpen.

“Late in the game, if we have a lead, we have a pretty good chance to win.”

Without the eighth-inning onslaught, closer Britton would have been asked for the four-out save.

“You can do that when you have a strong bullpen,” said O’s manager Buck Showalter. “You can’t extend guys if you only have one or two good arms.”

Victor Martinez struck out twice only the third time he had done so all season.

The previous time the Tigers have allowed 12 or more runs in post-season was a 15-5 loss to the Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the 2011 ALCS.

The starter that night was Scherzer. Michael Young and Cruz homered for the Rangers. Two doubles, three singles, a walk an intentional walk and an error resulted in an eight-run inning.

Game 2 is Friday at noon.

Former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander tries to even the series before it heads back to Detroit.

AND YOU ARE?

Over the years, when I tell a cabbie: “To the ball park, please,” I’ve received a number of different replies, from: “Are you a player?” to “Umping tonight?” to “You’re Alan Bates, singing the anthem tonight?”

All led to quick denials, except for the Bates cabbie reply, which led to an argument. He was certain he had an actor in the back seat.

Yet, Thursday was the first:

“Ball park, please.”

“You the bus driver?”

MOVE OVER, BABE

Nelson Cruz and Babe Ruth.

Yep, you can mention the two slugger in the same breath.

Cruz’s two-run homer off Max Scherzer on Thursday night was the 15th of his post-season career, putting him in a tie with The Bambino.

The 12 pitchers Ruth homered off, including Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, combined to win 1,329 games.

Cruz, meanwhile, has gone deep off 13 pitchers, including Cy Young winners Scherzer (twice), Justin Verlander (twice), and David Price (all now on the Tigers) and Giants’ Tim Lincecum.

Ruth never homered off a Cy Young winner as that pitching honour was not introduced until 1956, or 21 years after the legendary slugger had retired.

 


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