DETROIT — Nelson Cruz doesn’t have any long-held grudge against the Motor City.
The Baltimore Orioles designated hitter swears that his second destruction of the Detroit Tigers in the postseason was just one of those bizarre things that happens in October.
"I don’t have anything against Detroit," Cruz said after his two-run homer helped the Orioles to a 2-1 victory Sunday and an ALDS sweep of the Tigers. "Baseball is crazy, and I just get hot at the right time."
The homer, which snuck just inside the foul pole and barely over the fence, was the eighth that Cruz has hit against the Tigers in nine playoff games — six in Texas’ six-game elimination of the Detroit in the 2011 ALCS, and two more in Baltimore’s stunning sweep.
"If you had told me before the series that we were going to sweep, I would have thought you were crazy," Cruz said, holding his 1-year-old daughter, Jiara. "They’ve got three great pitchers and a great lineup, and I didn’t there was any way we could do this. But our pitching was great and we got some big hits."
The Tigers couldn’t say the same. Although Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price all pitched fairly well, the bullpen collapsed, and staring elimination in the face, they couldn’t muster any offense against journeyman Bud Norris or ex-teammate Andrew Miller.
"The story today was a pitcher’s duel between David Price and Bud Norris, and the home run by Cruz," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That’s what it boiled down to. Norris was outstanding, and I don’t think our right-handed hitters got a hit off him."
The only time the Tigers posed a serious threat to Baltimore’s pitching staff was in the ninth inning, when Victor and J.D. Martinez led off with a pair of two-strike doubles that pulled the Tigers within a run.
But that’s when Orioles manager Buck Showalter was able to take advantage of Detroit’s weak bench.
Backup catcher Bryan Holaday, playing because Alex Avila sustained his second concussion in as many weeks, couldn’t get down a bunt and ended up striking out. At that point, knowing that Nick Castellanos was the only dangerous bat Ausmus had left, Showalter made the unconvential move of calling for an intentional walk, putting the winning run on base.
"Did I hesitate? Are you kidding?" Showalter said. "I’m not that smart. You can debate about whether it is a conventional move or not, but I thought it was the best way to put our players in the best position to win.
"There are a lot of variables involved, and there are a lot of situations where I wouldn’t have done it, but I thought it was the right thing to do."
By avoiding Castellanos, Britton faced Hernan Perez, who pinch-hit for Andrew Romine, and Eugenio Suarez was on deck to hit for Ezequiel Carrera. Perez, who had only five at-bats with the Tigers during the regular season, took the final decision out of Ausmus’ hand by grounding into a season-ending double play.
"I think, because of the nature of their swings, Perez is probably more prepared to hit a guy throwing 95, 96, 97 miles an hour," Ausmus said. "Suarez was going to hit for Carrera had we gotten to that point."
None of the four were good options. Perez, Suarez and Romine are all shortstops with careers based more on their gloves than their bats, and Carrera was only in the game because Rajai Davis wasn’t healthy enough to play the field after hitting for Don Kelly.
Had the Tigers sent the game into extra innings, they would have been trying to save the season with a makeshift outfield that included Torii Hunter in center field for the first time since 2011 and Nick Castellanos in left for the first time this season.
Instead, the game and the season came to a sudden, brutal end, and GM Dave Dombrowski will have all winter to solve the problems on the bench and in the bullpen.
"I don’t know if I have the words to describe the disappointment," Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez said. "It’s tough. It’s really, really tough."
***If multimedia does not appear right away, please click refresh***