(Reuters) - The Baltimore Orioles pummeled the Detroit Tigers bullpen for a 12-3 victory in the first game of their best-of-five American League divisional series in Baltimore on Thursday.
The Orioles got five strong innings from right-hander Chris Tillman and their bullpen completed the job despite a few shaky moments against the dangerous Detroit line-up in a game that featured five home runs and was closer than the final score suggested.
Baltimore held a tenuous one-run lead until breaking the game open with eight runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The generosity of Detroit’s three relievers, who gave up seven runs, six earned, on five hits in 2/3 of an inning after starter Max Scherzer was replaced, allowed the Orioles to run up a franchise record score in a postseason game.
Left fielder Alejandro De Aza scored from third on an error from shortstop Andrew Romine with one out and that opened the floodgates.
"I can’t remember the last time he made an error. It doesn’t change my opinion about this guy as a shortstop," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus told reporters.
"It’s a team effort. Up to that point it was a pretty good game. It just got away from us."
Five Baltimore players had two hits, including designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who continued to torment the Tigers, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning. He now has seven home runs in seven career postseason games against Detroit.
Tillman, who was 13-6 in the regular season, got the win after throwing 73 strikes in 105 pitches, with six strikeouts. He gave up four hits and two runs.
After a sizzling first inning, he gave up solo home runs just four pitches apart in the second inning to Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez.
But Tillman made a technical adjustment before the third inning on the advice of his pitching coach and was much sharper thereafter.
Detroit's only other run came from another solo home run by Miguel Cabrera in the eighth, long after Tillman had left the game.
Scherzer, in his first appearance against Baltimore this season, took the loss after 7-1/3 innings. He was charged with five runs on seven hits in what may prove to be his final game for Detroit as he enters free agency.
The second game is on Friday.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury