BALTIMORE -- One got the sense in the days leading up to this American League Division Series that the Orioles grew tired of hearing about the Tigers' star-enriched rotation that featured three Cy Young winners.
They did something about it Thursday night.
While by no means hammering Max Scherzer, the Orioles got their share of hacks before unloading on a terrible Tigers bullpen late in 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, last year's AL Cy Young winner who went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA this season, did not pitch all that poorly. He allowed five runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 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). He 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, whose pitch count was driven up early in throwing 105 in the game. "But they've been doing that all year."
"That" as in pitching, using Tillman's words, "lights out."
The unit ranked as the AL's best in the second half of the season, posting a 2.88 ERA, and allowed one run over the last four innings in Game 1.
Because of Tillman's high pitch count, Showalter called on one of his bullpen studs, lefthander Andrew Miller, earlier than usual. The lefty 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."
The Orioles turned the game into a laugher with an eight-run eighth. After Darren O'Day allowed a Miguel Cabrera solo blast in the top of the eighth to make it 4-3, Showalter brought on closer Zach Britton for a four-out save. Britton got one, and there was no need for him to pitch the ninth.
Alejandro De Aza doubled off Scherzer with one out in the eighth and Ausmus brought on former Yankee 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, whose two-run shot in the first made it 2-0 and gave him 15 career postseason homers, tying Babe Ruth for 10th all-time, then singled up the middle to make it 6-3.
"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 of how the Orioles are constructed for success this time of year. "If we have a lead late in the game we have a pretty good chance to win the game."