BALTIMORE - In the days leading up to this American League Division Series, one got the sense that the Orioles grew tired of hearing about the Tigers' star-enriched rotation that features three Cy Young winners.
They did something about it Thursday night.
By no means did they hammer Max Scherzer, but the Orioles got their share of hacks before unloading on the Tigers' bullpen in an eight-run eighth inning. That broke open a close game and produced a 12-3 Game 1 victory before a sellout crowd of 47,842 at Camden Yards.
"We have to figure out how to win two more games from these guys," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's going to be tough."
Game 2 is at noon Friday as Tigers righty Justin Verlander (15-12, 4.54) faces Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen (16-6, 3.54). "This will be in the rearview mirror by tomorrow morning," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Scherzer, who won the AL Cy Young Award last season and went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 2014, did not pitch all that poorly. He allowed five runs and seven hits in 71/3 innings, but two of the hits were a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz (three RBIs) and a solo blast by J.J. Hardy.
He was outdone by Orioles righty Chris Tillman, who pitched pretty well himself this season (13-6, 3.34). Tillman grinded through five innings, allowing two runs -- on back-to-back homers by Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez in the second -- and four hits.
"I let the bullpen down a little bit. I should have gotten deeper," said Tillman, who threw 105 pitches. "But they've been doing that all year."
"That" as in pitching "lights out," in Tillman's words. The unit ranked as the AL's best in the second half of the season, posting a 2.88 ERA, and allowed one run in the last four innings in Game 1.
Because of Tillman's high pitch count, Showalter called on lefthander Andrew Miller earlier than usual. He responded by striking out three in 1 2/3 scoreless innings. "It's win at all costs," Miller said. "No matter how you get to the finish line, you just want to get there."
After Darren O'Day allowed a solo homer by Miguel Cabrera in the top of the eighth to cut the Orioles' lead to 4-3, Showalter went to closer Zach Britton for a four-out save. He got the first of those outs, and by the time the Orioles got to the ninth, there was no need for him to finish up.
Alejandro De Aza doubled off Scherzer with one out in the eighth and Ausmus brought on Joba Chamberlain to face Adam Jones. His shot to short was booted by Andrew Romine, allowing De Aza to score for a 5-3 lead. Cruz singled up the middle to make it 6-3, and Chamberlain gave way to Joakim Soria.
After Ryan Flaherty's RBI single, Jonathan Schoop and De Aza each added a two-run double, the latter off Phil Coke.
"We're built to play good defense and we also have great starting pitching and have one of the best bullpens in the league," Cruz said. "If we have a lead late in the game, we have a pretty good chance to win the game."