Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
BALTIMORE _ 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 this night the O’s treated former Max Scherzer like a fifth starter and then beat up the Tigers bullpen as if it was three rehabbing guys 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 Thursday night.
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 former Cy Young award winner, who walked off the mound down by two with one a man on second and one out in the eighth.
What came next was as if Jose Valverde, Fred Gladding and Hank Aguirre had showed 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 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.
Nelson Cruz had homered with two out in the first for his 15th career post-season homer for a 2-0 lead. Believe it or not — thanks to six home runs in the 2011 American League Championship Series — Cruz now has as many post-season 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 Ian 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. Cabrera made it a one-run game with a solo homer.
The combined line on the three free-agents heading into the winter isn’t real good, but it’s early. Jon Lester, James Shields and Scherzer have worked 19 2/3 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 worked 1 2/3 scoreless striking out Victor Martinez, who fanned three times in 106 September at-bats, and two others. Zach Britton 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 all season.
The last 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 named 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.
Bip Boppers: Nelson Cruz and Babe Ruth.
Yep, you can mention the two slugger in the same breath.
Cruz’s two-run homer off Max Scherzer was the 15th of his post-season career putting him in a tie with the Great Bambino.
Ruth hit his 15 post-season homers off Flint Rhem (two), Bill Sherdel (two), plus once each against Hi Bell, Jesse Haines, Hugh McQuillan, Jack Bentley, Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, Mike Cvengros, Charlie Root and Phil Douglas. The 12 pitchers Ruth homered off combined for a 1,329-983 (.575) won-loss record
Cruz hit his 15 off Scherzer (two), Justin Verlander (two), David Price, Rafael Soriano, Wade Davis, Sergio Mitre, David Robertson, Ryan Perry, Tim Lincecum, Jose Valverde, Brad Penny, Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn. Cruz went deep off 13 pitchers, including four Cy Young award winners, who combined to go 776-598 (.564).
Ruth never homered off a Cy Young award winner as the honour was not introduced until 1956 and the slugger retired in 1935.
And you are?: Over the years when I tell a cabbie “to the ball park please,” I’ve been received a number of replies, from “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 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.”