It was a glorious night at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland as the Orioles shelled the Detroit bullpen in an eight-run eighth inning to beat the Tigers by a score of 12-3 and go up 1-0 in the opening game of the best-of-five American League Division Series.
It was about as good of a first inning as the Orioles could have hoped. The starter, Chris Tillman, showed rare velocity, striking out the side while touching 96 mph with his final pitch of the frame. In the bottom of the inning it continued equally well with a Nick Markakis single to center field. Alejandro De Aza followed by being hit on his right foot by a wild curveball out of the hand of Detroit starter Max Scherzer. An Adam Jones double play ball looked like it would kill the threat, but Nelson Cruz saved it and continued his strong postseason resume with a home run to right field, putting the Orioles up by a score of 2-0.
As sweet as that first inning was for Tillman, the top of the second was equally as bad. He stayed with the fastball that had been so successful. However, Victor Martinez and J.D Martinez were ready for it. They led off the inning with back-to-back solo home runs. Both balls went onto the flag court in right field to make it a 2-2 ballgame.
The O's came fighting back and actually managed to manufacture a run in the bottom of the second. It all started with Ryan Flaherty, of course. The Flahrt worked a one-out, six-pitch walk. Following a fly out by Nick Hundley, Jonathan Schoop sent a single to centerfield. Flaherty advanced to third, giving the O's runners on the corners with two outs. The playoff debutant himself, Markakis, came through with a bloop single to shallow right-center field, scoring Flaherty and giving the Birds a 3-2 lead.
Things stayed quiet for the third and fourth innings as the two starters retired the six batters they each faced.
Tillman got into some trouble in the fifth inning. After getting two outs, he allowed singles to Andrew Romine and Rajaii Davis and a walk to Ian Kinsler to load the bases. He was able to force Torii Hunter to send a grounder to Flaherty at third base, who then fed to Schoop covering second for the force out, ending the inning and Tillman's night of work.
Tilly went five innings and gave up two runs on four hits and one walk, striking out six. Five of his strikeouts came in the first two innings when his fastball velocity saw a big jump from what he featured during the season. He touched 96 mph at one point and threw a slew of pitches in the 92-94 mph range. His curveball had good bite, but he was up in the zone quite a bit. All in all, the Orioles have to be happy with his performance. Although it would have been nice to see him go one more inning.
He turned the pill over to the lefty Andrew Miller, who, despite getting behind in the count several times, worked through a scoreless sixth inning.
In the bottom of the inning, it seemed as if the Orioles had added to their lead when Steve Pearce sent a deep fly ball to left field off of Scherzer. I thought it was gone, the announcers thought it was gone, Scherzer thought it was gone and Pearce thought it was gone. It wasn't gone. It hit the wall and J.D. Martinez fired into second base to nail Pearce by a mile, who had gotten into his home run trot prematurely and even started a fist pump. Inning over.
Miller came back out for the seventh inning, getting the first two batters of the inning out before making way for Darren O'Day, who would make it an easy 1-2-3 frame.
J.J. Hardy gave the Birds some cushion in the bottom of the inning with a lead-off home run into the bullpen area. It made it 4-2 O's and Birdland was feeling pretty good.
Detroit fired right back the next half-inning. O'Day failed to cover first base on a ground ball to Pearce and Kinsler reached to open the inning. The next hitter, Hunter, hit into a double play when Kinsler took off for second. Hardy caught the liner and threw to first base to complete the two-out play. The next batter, Miguel Cabrera, sent a line drive home run to right centerfield that just squeaked over the fence, making it a one-run game once again. Birdland was getting queasy. OK fine, I was getting queasy.
Zach Britton came on to, apparently, get a four-out save. He would get Victor Martinez to ground out to end the inning.
And then...we had the bottom of the eighth inning. This was awesome and may take a little while to get through.
A one-out double from De Aza finally knocked Scherzer from the game. The Detroit righty went 7.1 innings and held off exposing the Tiger bullpen to the Oriole offense for as long as he possibly could. But he's just one man and he just didn't have the power.
That guy with the beard, Joba Chamberlain, was the first option out of the 'pen for some reason. The first batter he faced was Adam Jones, who grounded to Romine at shortstop. Romine flubbed the ball and De Aza came around to score and make it a 5-3 game. Then, the Orioles stole a base. THEY STOLE A BASE! Jones took second and then Cruz singled, scoring AJ, increasing the lead yet again, this time to 6-3. Soria replaced Chamberlain.
Pearce made up a bit for his earlier base-running blunder by singling to center field. Davis made a throw trying to nab Cruz at third but it came in late and Pearce advanced to second, giving the Birds two runners in scoring position. After an intentional walk to Hardy, the Flarht came through again, singling to left field. Cruz crossed the plate and the others advanced one base. It was 7-3 at this point. Yes, we are still in the eighth inning here.
Nick Hundley came up with the productive out next, grounding out to Romine, but bringing in Pearce from third base and moving both Hardy and Flaherty up one base each. 8-3 good guys.
The Buck Truck kept on rolling when Schoop stroked a double down the right field line, bringing in the two that were on base. 10-3 and, yes, still the eighth.
Phil Coke came in for Soria and then Markakis just walked and no one scored. What the heck? But De Aza fixed that up with another double, scoring both Schoop and Markakis, making it 12-3. That's the way the inning would end. The O's scored eight runs in the inning on six hits, two walks and one costly error against four different pitchers.
Tommy Hunter entered for the ninth inning and, despite the TBS announcer's insistence that he is the Orioles "set-up man", and the fact that he did load the bases, like we knew he would, he got out unscathed and the O's went up 1-0 in the best-of-five series.
The Orioles offense gave us everything we could want and more. They hit Scherzer very well. They didn't run the pitch count up like a lot of media seemed to be urging them to do. They simply hit him and force Detroit manager Brad Ausmus to go to the 'pen. The Birds just absolutely crushed them.
As for the pitching, Tillman was good but could be better. Miller looked good. I'm starting to worry about O'Day and how prone to the home run he is becoming. Hunter was bad, but didn't allow a run and, most importantly, he saved Britton's arm, meaning he is likely available for tomorrow's day game.
Hopefully you started laying the ground-work today so that you can take a sick day tomorrow. The O's and Tigers face off in Game Two at noon. Justin Verlander will be on the mound for Detroit and Baltimore will counter with the southpaw Wei-Yin Chen.