BALTIMORE – Nelson Cruz and the Baltimore Orioles had the good fortune of avoiding Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer during the regular season.
Or maybe it was the other way around.
In his 2014 debut against the hard-hitting Orioles, Scherzer found out quickly that a poor pitch can go a long way – in the other direction.
Cruz and J.J. Hardy homered, and Baltimore hammered out 12 hits in defeating Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers 12-3 Thursday in the opener of their A.L. division series.
“I just left too many pitches up,” Scherzer said. “This is a great-hitting ballclub. You give them a chance to extend their arms, they can really hit it.”
Jonathan Schoop and Alejandro De Aza each had two hits and two RBIs for the Orioles, who turned a close game into a rout with an eight-run eighth inning against Scherzer and three ineffective relievers.
The 12 runs set a postseason record for Baltimore, making its second playoff appearance since 1997.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is today at Camden Yards. Justin Verlander, the second of three straight Cy Young winners the Orioles will face, is set to go against left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.
Verlander must avoid the mistakes made by Scherzer, who allowed five runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. The right-hander was 18-5 during the regular season, but in this one he was burned by the long ball and outpitched by the Orioles.
“I’ve got to find a way to get the ball down,” Scherzer said. “I wasn’t quite able to do that tonight, and I paid for it.”
Cruz led the majors with 40 homers during the regular season, a good portion of Baltimore’s big league-best 211 long balls. His first-inning drive off Scherzer put the Orioles up 2-0 before Detroit’s Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez connected off Chris Tillman in the second to tie it.
But Baltimore had too much firepower for the Tigers. Hardy led off the seventh by driving a poorly thrown change-up from Scherzer over the center-field wall for a 4-2 lead.
“The one that stings is that J.J. Hardy home run,” Scherzer said. “That home run really changed the game in my eyes, gave them that insurance run.”
Cruz added his third RBI with a single during a wild eighth inning keyed by a Detroit error that kept the boisterous, orange-clad crowd of 47,842 on its feet.
Five different Orioles finished with two hits.
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