PREGAME: The Tigers managed a .500 road trip and a series win the last time they ventured out beyond Montcalm and Witherell. That hasn’t happened a whole lot this season. They’ll try to build on some recent success as they head under the cat-walked dome.
Justin Verlander faces the Rays for the second time in a row. He managed 8 innings and a win when Polanco guided a 3 run homer into the Tigers bullpen rescuing Justin from another stagnant offensive performance.
Jeff Niemann will be his adversary again. Niemann only allowed 5 hits and no walks in 7 innings last Sunday against Detroit. The Tigers will have to do a little more. Their offense has plated runs the last couple games, but they’re not really tearing the cover off the ball.
POSTGAME: I find sometimes I work backwards on these post game reports. The Tigers have had their share of late inning comebacks, but today it was the outing of Fernando Rodney that is catching my attention. Rodney was not good. Not at all. He’s been very good this year, and he hasn’t even been having many scary saves lately. Prior to tonight he had a 10 game stretch with 10.1 innings, 9 K’s and a 200/273/200 slash line against him. Not tonight though.
It may have been just one of those nights. It may have been the fact he pitched 2 days in a row, fully warmed up the third, and this was nearly his 4th game in a row. Regardless, with 35 pitches to the Rays and one ball heaved into the stands (not sure what’s up with that, but it wasn’t cool) we won’t see him tomorrow night.
But beyond Rodney, Verlander pitched a tremendous game once again and Jeff Niemann has to be thrilled to not go up against him anymore this season. Niemann got the short end again, and he was better tonight than last time. On Sunday the Tigers hit some balls hard right at fielders. Tonight they hit about 3 balls hard, one of them was a Cabrera blast that left the yard and 2 were Aubrey Huff doubles down the line.
But the Tigers put an impressive rally together in the 9th. Like Thursday’s 10th inning it involved Ryan Raburn getting on base. And then Leyland pushed the right buttons. Inge fanned, but Thames worked a walk as a pinch hitter for Laird. He stuck with Everett (a move that would have raised ire had it not worked) who delivered the go ahead hit. Granderson avoided the sombrero with a first pitch grounder between first and second that plated pinch runner Wilkin Ramirez. Then a sac fly from Polanco and it was a 3 run lead that they’d need all 3 of.
Oh yeah, back to Verlander. He was awesome again. I still think Zach Greinke is the most deserving Cy Young candidate at the moment (stuff can certainly change and it doesn’t mean Grenike will win it even if he is deserving), but Verlander has the wins, the first place team, and a gaudy strike out total to support his cause.