A few weeks ago, the Baltimore Orioles clinched their first American League East title since 1997. On Sunday, they secured their first trip to the American League Championship Series over the same time period, beating the Tigers 2-1 in Detroit in Game 3 to sweep their best-of-five Division Series.
Nelson Cruz continued his superb postseason, hitting a two-run home run to break a scoreless tie in the sixth inning for the only runs Baltimore would need. Cruz's blast landed just inches fair and barely over the wall in right field. It was his second home run of the series, and the 16th of his postseason career, passing Babe Ruth and tying Carlos Beltran for ninth all-time. Cruz also had a single as part of his 2-for-4 game and finished the series hitting .500.
Tigers starter David Price had little trouble with the rest of Baltimore's lineup, pitching eight innings and allowing just three other hits while striking out six. It was the best performance by Detroit's trio of Cy Young winners, but just like Max Scherzer in Game 1 and Justin Verlander in Game 2, Price failed to get the win.
Bud Norris was even better than Price on the cool day at Comerica Park, taking a shutout into the seventh inning and allowing just two hits before giving way to Andrew Miller, who pitched 1 2/3 clean innings to get the ball to closer Zach Britton in the ninth.
Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez opened the inning with doubles to finally get the Tigers on the board, but Britton settled down from there. After he struck out Bryan Holaday, Baltimore elected to intentionally walk Nick Castellanos, putting the potential winning run on base but also setting up a double play. Britton got just that when Hernan Perez hit a ground ball to third baseman Ryan Flaherty, who started the 5-4-3 twin killing that likewise killed Detroit's championship hopes.
The Tigers, despite four straight AL Central titles, are still waiting for their first World Series crown since 1984. The Orioles haven't won since 1983, or been to the Fall Classic since then, but they took another step toward doing so on Sunday.