It’s amazing what a big come from behind victory can do for the spirits of a team, or a fanbase, or a blogger. I was freezing in the stands for this game. Cracking sarcastic remarks about the fates of our Tigers. I saw a glimmer of hope when the team plated 4 runs in the 6th inning to cut the lead to 1 run. I seethed in the top of the 7th as I began to compose my post game report in my head. Needless to say it had a very different working title. But then everything turned around as the Tigers batted around in the top of the 8th inning.
For so much of the game it seemed like just another miserable night of 2008 Tigers baseball. Jeremy Bonderman was pitching good, but his effort was repeatedly undermined by poor defense. A dropped foul ball led to the first two runs. A misplayed ball in center field led to two more. And as has happened so frequently to the starters, he was left in a little too long (the velocity crapped out around 90 pitches again – this stamina thing is worrisome), and he left a few too many runners on base, and they all scored courtesy of the bullpen.
I’m not going to kill Bobby Seay. He’d been pretty rock-steady and he just didn’t have it tonight. But it looked to be another loss for a team that had grown accustomed to losing. Could a team coming off of back to back shutouts really claw back from 5 runs down?
Then a funny thing happened. Pudge Rodriguez, who had made a run costing error earlier and who also had hit a couple of balls square down the right field line with nothing to show for it, hit a 342 foot homer where the fence was 345 feet away. The Twins right fielder was kind enough to ‘Canseco’ a drive to the wall over said wall. Albeit with more grace than his Juiced-ness.
And then things got really crazy after Francis Beltran escaped with a scoreless top of the 8th inning. Detroit started pounding line drives. Sheffield banged one into the left corner for a double. Ordonez hit a missile to center field that missed clearing the fence by a matter of feet resulting in another double. A weak grounder to Adam Everett, one of the most sure handed fielders in the game, became a gift of an E6. Carlos Guillen’s third hit of the night plated another run and brought the tying run to the plate – with nobody out.
But here’s the thing. Pat Neshek, he of the freaky side arm moving all over the place delivery, was coming in. After an Edgar Renteria ground out, Pudge Rodriguez found the right-center gap for the Tigers first triple. A game tying hit. The comback was complete. But things weren’t done. The much maligned Jacque Jones was squaring off against his old team. He hadn’t found a way to get a ball out of the infield, yet somehow he needed to muscle one deep to put the team ahead. He fought off a couple tough pitches before lining a ball to left field that Delmon Young made a fine running catch on. But it was deep enough, and hit where Young’s momentum wasn’t carrying him straight home. The result was a close play but ultimately a Tigers lead.
Clete Thomas and Placido Polanco would tack on an insurance run on a night when everyone picked up a hit – except for Jones who still managed the go ahead RBI.
With that the team has some life. I don’t know if it carries over, but for one night we saw the offense that we knew had to be in there somewhere. The All Star lineup finally turning RISP into R instead of GIDP. It wasn’t a matter of worrying about working the pitcher as much as it was about pounding pitches. Many of those bullets came on first pitch swings which no one seems to complain about when they find a gap.
It wasn’t a complete game by any means: three errors, more bad bullpening, bad managing, etc. But it was life, and energy, and smiles, and fun.