With the ALDS being only five games, there’s more of an emphasis on game one as much as anything. Thus with their 12-3 victory before a raucus crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Birds struck the first blow in a series that figures to have it’s share of twists and turns. Chris Tillman, was solid, save for a rough second inning that drove up his pitch count more than anything else. Tillman’s line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K.
Three of those six strikeouts were in the first inning, when Tillman struck out the side. Nelson Cruz proceeded to give the Orioles a 2-0
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lead with a two run homer in the last of the first. However Detroit looked like they had plenty of fight in them an inning later when Victor and J.D. Martinez shot back-to-back solo homers to right field to tie the game at two. My personal opinion was that the bigger worry was Tillman’s pitch count coming out of that inning, however later on in the game Buck Showalter proved once again that he was a master at handling a pitching staff.
The O’s however wouldn’t be denied on this night.
Tillman and Nick Markakis were playing in the first post season games of their careers, and they made the most of it.
Markakis smacked an RBI-single in the last of the second to put the Birds ahead for good. And there we stood at 3-2, in a game that to a certain point was a well-pitched affair by both teams. However Detroit’s bullpen is their weakness, and that was proven in the later innings.
The Birds took a 4-2 lead on Hardy’s solo homer in the seventh. However perhaps the most unhearalded play in the game occurred in the top of the eighth following an Ian Kinsler single with nobody out. With Kinsler running on a 2-2 count, Tori Hunter lined out to J.J. Hardy at short…Kinsler was already around second base as Hardy caught the ball, and it turned into an easy double-play for the Orioles. It’s unclear as to whether or not Kinsler missed a sign or what exactly happened there, but given that Miguel Cabrera homered to cut the Orioles’ lead to 4-3 immediately afterwards Detroit missed a huge opportunity there.
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Following a one-out double in the eighth, Alejandro De Aza scored on an E6 as Adam Jones reached on a fielder’s choice. For the record, De Aza’s good base running is not something that can be discounted. When Detroit shortstop Andrew Romine bobbled the ball, he just kept on going. De Aza’s keen instincts gave the Orioles another two-run cushion at 5-3. It also opened up a donnybrook of an eighth inning.
Jones would steal second base, and then score on an RBI-single by Nelson Cruz. Later in the inning with runners at second and third, Detroit’s Joba Chamberlein would IBB Hardy to load the bases. Ryan Flaherty’s subsequent RBI-single would run the score to 7-3, and Nick Hundley’s RBI-ground out would put one more on the board. Jonathan Schoop and Alejandro De Aza (who was taking his second turn at the plate in the inning) would add two-RBI doubles, and when all was said and done the score was 12-3.
So in a nutshell, the Orioles put up a “crazy eight” in that they crossed the plate eight times in the eighth inning. But make no mistake about the fact that both bullpens played a huge role in this game. Detroit’s glaring weakness is their bullpen, and it’s obviously a strength for the Orioles. Andrew Miller pitched a solid 1.2 innings, at which point Showalter went to Darren O’Day…who was pulled with two gone in the eighth in favor of closer Zach Britton. For all intents and purposes, it appeared that Showalter was going to send Britton out there for a four-out save. However after the Birds put up eight runs in the last of the eighth, Tommy Hunter emerged from the bullpen so as to keep Britton fresh for a would-be appearance today.
Perhaps the best news of the day was that the Orioles manufactured those runs in the eighth inning. Granted Cruz had the big bop early in the game, but the majority of the damage was done without the home run ball. That’s something that bodes well for the Birds in general, but especially in that on Sunday they’ll find themselves in Detroit where the dimensions aren’t as condusive to hitting homers.
The O’s have a very quick turnaround today, as they’ll play game two of this ALDS at just after noon. Wei-Yin Chen will make his post season debut this afternon for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Detroit’s Justin Verlander.