Cruz continues to torment Scherzer, Tigers' pitching

Orioles slugger hits seventh postseason homer against Detroit, drives in three in Game 1

Cruz continues to torment Scherzer, Tigers' pitching

BALTIMORE -- When the Orioles signed Nelson Cruz during Spring Training, they pointed to his postseason resume as one of the main reasons why. It took him all of one game to live up to the hype.

Cruz made his Baltimore postseason debut in dramatic fashion by homering on the first pitch he saw from right-hander Max Scherzer in the first inning. That was just the start of a highlight-reel night that saw Cruz finish Game 1 of the American League Division Series with a pair of hits, two runs scored and three RBIs.

  Date   Matchup/Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 2   BAL 12, DET 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   BAL 7, DET 6 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   BAL 2, DET 1 video

The production played a pivotal role in Baltimore's 12-3 victory over Detroit, but it also continued a trend that has seen Cruz establish himself as one of the standout performers of the postseason over the last several years.

"It's just I like to enjoy this moment, you know," Cruz said when asked about his success in the postseason. "I think as a player, you want to be in the situation. And, you know, it's no reason. I like to enjoy it."

Cruz might not have a lot to say about his postseason track record, but the gaudy numbers speak for themselves. The first-inning homer was the 15th of his postseason career, which moved Cruz into a tie for 10th place all time with Yankees legend -- and Baltimore native -- Babe Ruth. The only active players with more are Albert Pujols (18), David Ortiz (17) and Carlos Beltran (16).

The slugging percentage for Cruz is even more impressive than the home run total. His career postseason slugging of .700 ranks third on the all-time list. Among players with 100 postseason plate appearances, Cruz trails only Hall of Famers Ruth (.744) and Lou Gehrig (.731).

Postseason homers
Nelson Cruz is tied with Babe Ruth for 10th place on the postseason home run list.
Player Homers
Manny Ramirez 29
Bernie Williams 22
Derek Jeter 20
Mickey Mantle 18
Reggie Jackson 18
Albert Pujols 18
Jim Thome 17
David Ortiz 17
Carlos Beltran 16
Babe Ruth 15
Nelson Cruz 15
David Justice 14
Jayson Werth 14
Jim Edmonds 13
Alex Rodriguez 13
Chipper Jones 13
Miguel Cabrera 13
Matt Holliday 12
Yogi Berra 12

There was plenty of talk in the days leading up to this series about Cruz's numbers during October. That's at least partially why the two-run shot in first inning was so surreal and helped set the tone for Baltimore against one of the best pitchers in baseball.

"I know he's a great hitter," Scherzer said after taking the loss in Game 1. "Knowing that situation is a big situation, I just wanted to execute a fastball down and away. The problem was I executed away and it was just up. He's a great hitter. He's a great high-ball hitter as well.

"He was able to put a good swing on it with the pitch up. Doesn't matter if it's away or not. That's the frustrating part. I know I've got to be better than that in that situation to execute down in the zone."

Scherzer knows all too well about the kind of damage Cruz can inflict upon his opponents during the postseason. In fact, all of the Tigers know because it wasn't all that long ago that Cruz almost single-handedly sent them packing at the end of the season.

The last time Cruz faced Detroit in the playoffs was back in the 2012 AL Championship Series. He homered six times in six games and finished with eight hits and 13 RBIs to propel Texas past the Tigers and into the World Series.

One of those home runs came on a 94-mph fastball from Scherzer, but even that's not unusual in this particular case. Cruz is 12-for-28 in his career against the former Cy Young Award winner, and there certainly aren't very many players who can say that.

Cruz, naturally, wants to downplay those numbers as well. Whether it's becoming a trend, he seems to prefer everything be left relatively low key.

"I mean, I just tried to play like any other team," said Cruz, who also added an RBI single up the middle in the O's eight-run eighth. "It's nothing against the Tigers or any other team, just try to do my job."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.