Orioles maul Tigers, Royals edge Angels

The Baltimore Orioles opened their American League playoff series against Detroit with a bang on Thursday, erupting for eight runs in the eighth inning to beat the Tigers 12-3.

Nelson Cruz set the tone for the American League East division winners Baltimore with a two-run home run in the first inning.

The victory gives the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five division series.

Things were closer across the country in Anaheim, California, where Mike Moustakas’ first home run in more than a month lifted the Kansas City Royals to a 3-2 victory over the Angels in 11 innings in game one of the other AL division series.

Moustakas greeted Angels relief pitcher Fernando Salas with a leadoff homer in the 11th to deliver the Royals victory over the AL West division champion Angels.

Moustakas got just enough of the pitch from Salas, his blast barely clearing the right-field wall.

Royals reliever Greg Holland then retired the side in order in the bottom of the 11th to give the Royals a 1-0 series lead going into game two on Friday.

“Moose hit 15 homers on the year,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, “but none was bigger than that one, for sure.”

Kansas City’s superb defense kept the game close as they found hits hard to come by in the later innings.

Japanese outfielder Nori Aoki contributed a couple of outstanding plays, including a catch at the right-field wall that denied Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick a potential extra base hit in the sixth.

With two outs and a runner on third in the seventh, Anaheim’s CJ Cron struck a ball sharply to right field.

Aoki wound his way around to it in time to make a twisting, diving catch and end the inning with the score still knotted at 2-2.

“Aoki killed us tonight,” Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton said.

Angels pitchers retired 16 successive hitters at one point, but they wasted a wealth of scoring chances. They left eight on base and were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Anaheim’s only runs came on solo homers from Chris Iannetta in the third inning and David Freese in the fifth.

In Baltimore, Cruz — who led the major leagues with 40 home runs in the regular season — produced a run-batted-in single along with his early homer off Detroit starting pitcher Max Scherzer.

JJ Hardy delivered a solo homer and Alejandro De Aza and Jonathan Schoop both went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI for the Orioles.

Nick Markakis also had a brace of hits, singling in a run, and Chris Tillman out-pitched Scherzer in his post-season debut.

Tillman gave up back-to-back solo homers to Victor Martinez and JD Martinez in the second inning. But he allowed just two other hits while striking out six over five innings.

– Offensive explosion –

Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera homered off Darren O’Day in the top of the eighth to pull Detroit within 4-3.

But Baltimore exploded offensively in the bottom of the frame, taking advantage of the Tigers relief pitchers and sending 12 batters to the plate as they turned it into a rout.

“Up until that point in the game, it was a pretty good game and it just got away from us,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “You’ve got to credit the Baltimore Oriole hitters as well.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter cautioned that the job was far from finished.

“We have to figure out how to win two more games from these guys,” Showalter said. “It’s going to be tough.”

Game two in each series is on Friday. The winners of the division series will meet in the American League Championship series for a chance to challenge the National League winners in the World Series.

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