MLB Playoffs: O’s undaunted by Cy winners, Tigers
DETROIT -- Three consecutive Cy Young Award winners started for Detroit in the American League Division Series, yet the Baltimore Orioles sent the Tigers home.
DETROIT - Three consecutive Cy Young Award winners started for Detroit in the American League Division Series, yet the Baltimore Orioles sent the Tigers home.
Nelson Cruz squeezed a two-run home run just inside the base of the right field foul pole in the sixth inning, leading the Orioles to a 2-1 victory over the Tigers on Sunday and a three-game series sweep.
Right-hander Bud Norris and two Baltimore relievers combined to throw a four-hitter.
“We didn’t exactly beat up on them,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “You try to stay engaged with their starters and hope you grind them enough where some other situations might present themselves. They did their job.”
The Orioles now await the winner of the Kansas City Royals-Los Angeles Angels series for the start the AL Championship Series. The Royals won each of the first two games in extra innings. Game 3 was Sunday night in Kansas City, Mo.
The three consecutive losses marked the first time Detroit was swept out of an opening postseason series since the playoffs were expanded in 1969. The Tigers failed to win a game despite sending out a decorated rotation featuring right-handers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander and left-hander David Price.
“Really the story was a pitchers’ duel between David Price and Bud Norris, and the home run by Cruz,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said, “That’s what it boiled down to.”
Also crucial was the way the Orioles closed the game in the ninth.
Designated hitter Victor Martinez greeted Orioles closer Zach Britton with a leadoff double to left-center on a 1-2 pitch. Left fielder J.D. Martinez rifled an 0-2 pitch off the base of the wall in right-center to ruin Baltimore’s shutout bid.
Britton earned his second postseason save by striking out catcher Bryan Holaday, then getting pinch hitter Hernan Perez to hit into a 5-4-3 double play following an intentional walk to third baseman Nick Castellanos.
The intentional walk put the winning run on base, a violation of a baseball canon. However, the Baltimore manager knew two of Detroit’s weaker hitters were coming up and the Tigers had nobody of note to pinch-hit.
“Just needed a little karma change,” Showalter said, “in the way that the inning was going there.
“It really played to the strength of our guys. Each situation changes due to the strength of your players and the strength of their players.”
In the Baltimore sixth, center fielder Adam Jones grounded a one-out single up the middle before designated hitter Cruz lifted a 1-1 changeup from Price (0-1) down the line and into the first row of the seats.
Cruz feasted on Detroit pitching in two playoffs series, the first with Texas in 2011, for a total of eight home runs and 18 RBIs in nine games. With his 16th career postseason homer, he broke a tie for 10th place with Babe Ruth and is now deadlocked for ninth with Carlos Beltran.
“Nothing against Detroit,” Cruz said. “It’s just basically crazy. I guess I get hits at the right time.”
Norris (1-0) went 0-2 with a 6.39 ERA against Detroit in the regular season this year, but he was masterful in mixing pitches and spotting his fastball Sunday. He kept the Tigers scoreless on two hits through 6 1/3 innings.
Norris walked two and struck out six. He retired 11 batters in a row until walking Castellanos with one out in the seventh. Left-hander Andrew Miller entered, got two straight outs, then set down the side in order in the eighth.
Price gave up two runs on five hits in eight innings, walking two, hitting one and striking out six.
“I don’t know that there is a ton we could have done differently,” Ausmus said. “Quite frankly, I think Game 2 was probably the game that hurt us the most, having a lead going into the eighth inning.”
With Detroit desperate for an early spark Sunday, shortstop Andrew Romine bunted to second trying for a single with two outs in the second inning and catcher Alex Avila on third, but he was thrown out on a close play. Avila doubled with one out and advanced on a fly ball.
Norris stranded runners at second and third in the third, a throwing error by shortstop J.J. Hardy prolonging the inning, by getting Victor Martinez to fly to shallow center on a 2-2 pitch.
The Tigers lost Avila in the sixth when he was hit in the mask by a foul ball, the third time this season he left a game due to concussion symptoms.
“It’s disappointing,” Ausmus said of his rookie managerial season coming to an end. “You feel like you let the fans down, the organization down and the Ilitches (owner Mike and family) down.”
Meanwhile, the Orioles are looking ahead to the rest of their postseason adventure.
“There are different steps during the season that you have to take, and this is one of them,” Showalter said. “And so hard against a team like Detroit with such a great pedigree and experienced at this, you know.
“It’s a challenge and will continue to be, but basically what you won is an opportunity to keep rolling the dice.”
NOTES: Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski spoke with him after the game. “I appreciate that; a very classy organization,” Showalter said. ... CF Rajai Davis was absent from Detroit’s starting lineup due to soreness in his left pelvic region, although he did pinch-hit in the seventh. He was replaced by Don Kelly, who went 1-for-2. ... Baltimore scored 12 of its 21 total runs in the eighth innings of its series sweep. ... Tigers LF J.D. Martinez hit a home run in each of his first two postseason games, the 15th player in major league history to do so. ... Orioles LF Alejandro De Aza, a left-handed hitter, did not start against Tigers LHP David Price. LF Delmon Young replaced him and went 0-for-3. Manager Buck Showalter moved 1B Steve Pearce up to second in the order, where De Aza was hitting, and Pearce finished 0-for-2 with a walk.