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BALTIMORE (AP) — Max Scherzer wasn't as sharp as usual, yet the Detroit Tigers were still just one run behind heading into the eighth inning of Game 1 in their AL Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
That's when things got ugly.
Aided by two Detroit errors, the Orioles scored eight runs and pulled away to a 12-3 victory Thursday night.
Baltimore led 4-3 before sending 12 men to the plate and getting six hits against Scherzer, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, and three ineffective relievers.
"Up until that point, it was a pretty good game," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Just got away from us. You've got to credit the Baltimore Orioles hitters as well."
Nelson Cruz homered and drove in three runs, and J.J. Hardy also connected for the Orioles, who led the majors with 211 homers during the regular season.
The 12 runs set a postseason record for Baltimore, making its second playoff appearance since 1997.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Friday at Camden Yards. Justin Verlander, the second of three straight Cy Young winners the Orioles will face, is set to go against left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.
Scherzer didn't face Baltimore this season, and in his 2014 postseason debut he learned that a bad pitch can go a long way — in the opposite direction.
"I just left too many pitches up," Scherzer said. "This is a great-hitting ballclub. You give them a chance to extend their arms, they can really hit it. I've got to find a way to get the ball down. I wasn't quite able to do that tonight, and I paid for it."
Clearly, facing Scherzer was not too daunting a task for the hard-hitting Orioles.
"It's the same game," said Alejandro De Aza, who had two hits and two RBIs. "Yes, this is a good pitcher, but it's the same game. You have to throw the ball to home plate for a strike to get us out."
The Tigers hit three solo homers, but very little else went right. An uncharacteristic error by shortstop Andrew Romine opened the door to that eight-run eighth, but afterward Ausmus wasn't pointing fingers.
"In baseball, team effort is if someone makes an error, you hope the pitcher picks them up," Ausmus said. "If a pitcher struggles, you hope the lineup picks him up. Tonight, we just didn't get it done."
Scherzer allowed five runs and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings. The right-hander was 18-5 during the regular season, but in this one he was burned by the long ball and outpitched by the Orioles.
Cruz, who led the majors with 40 homers during the regular season, put the Orioles up 2-0 with a first-inning drive before Detroit's Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez connected off Chris Tillman in the second to tie it.
A bloop single by Nick Markakis made it 3-2 in the Orioles' half, and Hardy led off the seventh by driving a poorly thrown changeup from Scherzer over the center-field wall for a two-run cushion.
"The one that stings is that J.J. Hardy home run," Scherzer said. "That home run really changed the game in my eyes, gave them that insurance run."
Cruz added his third RBI with a single during the wild eighth inning.
Tillman (1-0) allowed two runs in five innings before Andrew Miller got five outs — three by strikeout. Darren O'Day gave up an eighth-inning homer to Miguel Cabrera, but the drive followed a double play.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter then called upon closer Zach Britton, who had 37 saves during the regular season. Britton got the last out in the eighth, and by the time the ninth inning rolled around, he wasn't needed anymore.
Miller had a 1.35 ERA in 23 games with Baltimore, O'Day finished at 1.70 and Britton closed at 1.65. That's one big reason why the AL East-champion Orioles were 80-4 when leading after eight innings.
Meanwhile, Detroit's revamped bullpen looked shaky — although it was Romine's error that got the big eighth inning going.
"I can't remember the last time he made an error at shortstop," Ausmus said. "This was an unfortunate one, but it doesn't change my mind on him as a shortstop."
Although he had a 5.56 ERA in the first inning during the regular season, Tillman began his initial foray into the playoffs in impressive fashion by striking out the side on 14 pitches.
Cruz hit an opposite-field drive to right in the bottom half after Markakis hit a leadoff single. It was his 15th career postseason home run, tied with Babe Ruth for 10th place on the career list.
"It's just I like to enjoy this moment, you know," Cruz said. "I think as a player, you want to be in the situation. And, you know, it's no reason."
The rollicking, towel-waving sellout crowd of 47,842 had barely settled down when Victor Martinez led off the second with a towering shot over the right-field wall. Four pitches later, J.D. Martinez hit a tying homer in his first postseason at-bat.
Tigers: CF Rajai Davis (pelvic strain) was cleared to play after passing a series of drills early in the day before rosters were finalized. Davis started and batted ninth.
Tigers: Verlander (15-12, 4.54 ERA) makes his 16th postseason start following what Ausmus called "a down season overall" for the 2011 Cy Young Award winner.
Orioles: Chen (16-6, 3.54) seeks his first win since Sept. 15 after losing his final two starts in the regular season.
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