This falls to me, of all people? I’ve lost four in a row. I’ve been no-hit by the Miami Marlins. Lately, I seem to have inherited Justin “The Better I Pitch, The Less My Team Scores” Verlander from Kevin. My insight and wit have been hampered by an adverbial strain and more recently hobbled with a groan injury; I can’t write for extra bases any more. My typing fingers are suffering from Phil Cokeness.
Oh, all right, then. Our ace Coleman may be called upon to make the first-ever DTW game post relief appearance, though, and on short rest.
Seriously, I and we find ourselves atop one of those Tigers fans pinnacles. Not the ultimate pinnacle, but a good and interesting place to be anyway. Tuesday night, Detroit scored what was obviously the biggest win of the year. It’s worth dwelling upon for a bit.
ALDS Game 4: Tigers 8, A’s 6.
Man on 3B tout suite. How does that run not score? In the hole right away. Futility right away in the bottom half. Not an encouraging start. Though Cabrera did hit the ball about as far as he’s liable to these days.
Oh my, is Fister skating on thin ice. By the grace of his own defense and that of Hunter, he escapes. Fister is at 53 pitches through two. The urgent need to not allow even one more run is palpable. Fielder makes his usual effort to get out of the way of a pitch, which is a good thing. Martinez striking out on three pitches is a weird thing. Don’t poo-poo a 5-4-3 DP just because it’s against the Tigers; 3B Donaldson starts a nice one. Inning over, runner and false hope erased.
Our spirits are lifted with the fine DP that Fielder starts and the strikeout of Moss. Little momentum shift? But the Tigers at bats are poor, the typical poor at bats that these guys have when they have them, aside from Avila at least making contact (only to hit into the shift).
Only Grizzly Adams mars a good inning. Fister is settling down a bit, not a moment too soon. The radio guys remark upon how tardy Jackson’s swings are and how he’s (obvi) not picking up the ball well lately. Cabrera’s out is a weak fly. The Tigers have been no-hit through four.
Crisp can’t be stopped, but there are two outs. And then the Lowrie HR that just clears RF despite a valiant effort from Hunter. Honestly, after 4½ of this… if wasn’t for the DTW call of duty, I would have turned the game off and gone to bed at this point. 3-0 equals over. Ovah, baby. Then… it all started with a bloop (Dan Dickerson). Peralta was HUGE. Storybook time, ramifications for 2014. Can you believe it? The game is tied at 3! But the Tigers’ 7-8-9 (and why on earth is Avila #7?) essentially repeat their last at bats, and we end up with a reboot rather than a pulling away from. Nervous. Could Fister just please take a seat now, do you suppose?
But Fister comes back out and finishes strong (at 103 pitches, he’s gotta be done) with three groundball outs. The all-important shutdown inning. Looking back now, that’s HUGE in an understated way. Cabrera makes a fine play at 3B, not his only one of the game. But Straily strikes out the side around Cabrera’s postseason streak-extending single. It’s the 6th inning. They (Detroit) still haven’t figured him (Straily) out, and you don’t get the feeling they will.
Although the Tigers had had a few guys warm up in the bullpen, it was pretty clear that no one but Max was coming in at this juncture. It was nothing but textbook manufacturing of a run, but in this high-stakes context, a 20-pitch “OK” inning felt like a blowup and a betrayal from Scherzer. One huge run down AGAIN. Were your hopes fading? Mine were. The A’s bullpen was upon us with their biggest arm. But all-fastball Doolittle was in for a surprise. Leading off, second pitch, Martinez hit the controversial opposite field HR to tie it at 4. HUGE. If you saw it and worried about the review, imagine how it was to not see it and worry about the review. But the HR stood. Storybook Jhonny raised the roof with a double. If you thought having Avila attempt a sac bunt was a ludicrous call, I’m with you. Alex can hit a groundball to the right side, Jim Leyland. Have ya noticed? When he’s not striking out, it’s about all he does. Anyway, the rally was fading away when #9 Iglesias drew a walk. How often do we see both Tigers and opponents walk a #9 inexplicably with some big arm on the mound? It’s a kind of syndrome, I’m telling you. Jackson still can’t see the ball but manages to shatter his bat and send a flare into shallow RF. Crowd goes wild, Tigers lead, but Hunter strikes out and leaves us biting our nails.
Max was lost to start the inning. Bad leadoff walk to Moss. Hunter, having a busy day, commits an error on the Cespedes single to make it a “double.” Now an IBB is in order. Bases loaded with no outs. Sounds familiar. Is Max really to blame for this unbelievably bad situation? Yes. And he pitches out of it in dramatic fashion. We’ll remember that and forget the rest. High drama against Reddick and Vogt. Tiger-killer Callaspo hits it hard. Without a well-positioned Jackson there to get it… let’s not even think about it. The Tigers come up clinging to the lead. My money would’ve been on continued clinging. BUT THEY SCORED 3 AFTER TWO WERE OUT! Yeah, it was an Oakland bullpen meltdown this evening. But the Tigers weren’t giving that ground back. Infante’s double past a diving Donaldson was HUGE and would get even bigger very soon. Iglesias should bunt more often. Like, all the time.
With a 4-run cushion out of nowhere, we can breathe easy, or easier, right? Wrong. Crisp again. Coco Crisp, the guy who doesn’t even need Denard F. Span’s middle initial. Maybe Span should be Denard C.C. Span. It’s always Crisp. Why does he hate us so? Crisp was Crisp. Benoit was not crisp. Two outs, job almost done. Nope. Pitch up, hit through the box, two runs in. It’s unraveling again. Can’t it end well? With Benoit’s strikeout of Smith, some measure of justice is restored to the world. Tigers win. Can we take a Game 5 like this? We might have to. Tigers win and it’s all good. After some rest and perspective, anyway.
* Now, about that Martinez HR controversy. I don’t think it was clear that Reddick would have made the catch without any interference. In fact, I don’t think he would have. I’m relieved, because for me, this sort of thing can cast a pall over a game result. Whichever way it might go. Gift doesn’t sit a whole lot better than robbed with me.
* I think it’s a good move by Bob Melvin to go with Sonny Gray for Game 5. I don’t think it’s gonna work, but in an unbiased way (seriously), I admire the move as I’d admire the same move from Leyland. Not that I find that easy to imagine.
* Too bad about the Pirates. Really don’t want the Tigers to face St. Louis in the WS. Don’t know if it’s a better matchup than the Dodgers or not. Must be the Ghost Of ’06.
* Any Game 5 lineup controversies afoot? Hard to see anything different happening, though Leyland suggests he might be tinkering.
* Any trepidation about Verlander rather than Scherzer for Game 5 starter? None here.
* Any worries about Benoit? No more than usual here. The rest of the bullpen? Well, you know… Why don’t we just have 8 or 9 or 13 innings of Verlander instead?
The Tigers have a knack for the unexpectedly positive, it seems to me. Or is that just because we find the negatives so predictable? They pulled out Game 4. That was really something. Optimism, pessimism, underdogs, favorites – I have no idea. I’m just glad they made it to Game 5.