Welcome to October baseball. Routines go out the window.
Hunter replaced starter Chris Tillman with one out in the fifth, the first time he pitched in that inning since September 2012. Billy Butler lifted a sacrifice fly and Alex Gordon singled before Hunter picked him off first base. Kevin Gausman replaced Hunter in the sixth.
“Sweet pickoff, yeah?” Hunter said after an 8-6 10-inning loss to the Royals in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Camden Yards. “I was proud of it, man. I think that’s my first career pickoff. I don’t know that I’ve ever picked anybody off before today, so it must be my first one.”
Hunter has no idea when he’ll be called upon to pitch in the postseason. Just get up when told and get loose.
“You have to be ready,” Hunter said. “He calls your name, he calls your name. You’ve got to get going. I can’t say I was caught off-guard, but the situation with Butler coming up and maybe not wanting to use Gaus right away and trying to end the threat right there. I don’t know, but you’ve just got to be ready to go and hopefully make better pitches.
“The kid came in and threw the ball well. But (Showalter) had a gut feeling and went with it. I trust him. I’m going to take his lead on that and just go out and try to get the job done.”
The Orioles are down 1-0 in the series. A disappointment, but not a crushing blow.
“Oh, man, it’s the best of seven so it’s not too bad,” Hunter said. “It’s just one game. Got to win two out of three at their place and see what happens after that. You’ve got to win them.”
Nelson Cruz has multiple hits in five straight postseason games dating back to the 2012 American League wild card game. It equals the playoff record, accomplished 10 times by 10 different players.
Boston’s Kevin Youkilis was the last player to record multiple hits in five straight postseason games.
Cruz has at least two hits in each of his four games to start the 2014 postseason, becoming only the ninth player to do it to open the playoffs. The Yankees’ Derek Jeter was the last player to do it in 2012 in the first four games of the American League Division Series against the Orioles.
No player has started a single postseason with multiple hits in five straight games.