The Orioles got sentimental today before Game 1 of the American League Division Series, arranging for injured third baseman Manny Machado to throw the ceremonial first pitch to injured catcher Matt Wieters.
Soon after, Nelson Cruz got serious and put a hurting on the Tigers.
Cruz hit a two-run homer on the first pitch thrown to him by Max Scherzer to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. The Tigers tied the score in the second on back-to-back home runs by Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, raising Chris Tillman’s pitch count to 45.
Tillman struck out the side in the top of the first, his fastball ranging from 93-96 mph. He struck out Alex Avila in the second after the home runs and fanned Andrew Romine to end the inning.
In other words, Tillman dominated anyone not named Martinez.
Cruz dominates the Tigers in the playoffs, hitting seven homers and driving in 15 runs in seven career games.
Cruz’s 15 career postseason home runs ties him with Babe Ruth for 10th place on the all-time list.
According to Ace of MLB Stats, Cruz hit the Orioles’ first home run in the first inning of a postseason game since Brady Anderson on Oct. 8, 1997 in the Championship Series.
The inning started with Nick Markakis singling up the middle and Scherzer hitting Alejandro De Aza on the right foot. Adam Jones grounded into a double play, but Cruz went to the opposite field for his latest home run.
This place was loud during introductions and it got a lot louder when Cruz put a ball over the grounds crew shed.
Earlier today, manager Buck Showalter talked about how the crowd might compare to the 2012 postseason.
“I don’t know. We’re going to find out,” he said.
“They’ve been extremely supportive. We have had great crowds this year. I can’t tell you how many times we came off of tough travel and we got a lift emotionally that night, because we were dragging. You come out of the spring rated the top schedule, most challenging schedule in baseball, you need some of that when you come back.
“They’ve been here through thick and thin. And since I’ve been here, I can’t imagine a more supportive fan base. That sounds impersonal. There is a closeness and identification with this club. It fits our city. It’s not fits ‘the’ city, it fits ‘our’ city. And our guys will be at the Ravens games. They pull for them.
“There is a real closeness there with the city.”
Update: Markakis is 2-for-2 with an RBI in his postseason debut. His single with two outs in the bottom of the second inning gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
Ryan Flaherty walked with one out and Jonathan Schoop singled with two outs.