Drew Smyly (3-0) received credit for the win, bailing out an ineffective Phil Coke in the eighth, then pitching a scoreless ninth. Called on to replace injured Anibal Sanchez, rookie starting pitcher Jose Alverez pitched five innings for the Tigers, allowing two runs on five hits. Bailey (3-1) was hit with both his first loss of the season and fourth blown save.
Red Sox DH David Ortiz was on track to be the hero with two hits and two RBIs, including an eighth-inning single which snapped a 2-2 tie. But it would be Peralta who provided the fireworks thanks to his game-winning home run, the seventh big fly of the season and third walk-off his career. Torii Hunter supplied the rest of the Tigers' offense with a fifth-inning two-RBI single.
It was a true roller coaster ride for Tigers fans. In my case, at certain points of the game I was bummed, happy, beyond pissed off, ready to kill, then ready to party. In other words, just another Jim Leyland-managed game.
Alvarez was cruising along through 2 2/3 innings, having allowed just a second-inning single to Mike Napoli, who was immediately eliminated on an inning-ending double play. He then lost all command for a few batters, loading the bases without allowing a hit. Alvarez walked number nine hitter Jose Iglesias and Jacoby Ellsbury on eight pitches, then hit Shane Victorino in the back foot.
After Leyland lost his cool (but didn't get himself tossed) over the Victorino HBP, Alvarez pitched out of the bases-full jam of his own making when Dustin Pedroia lined out to right. Consider it a bullet dodged.
The Tigers had their first scoring opportunity thanks to Omar Infante's one out double in the third. After consecutive 6-3 ground outs off the bats of Brayan Pena and Austin Jackson, the Tigers had their first stranded base runner of the game as well.
After 1/3 of a baseball game had been completed, the Red Sox and Tigers remained tied at nil-nil, zip-zip and 0-0, take your pick.
Top of four, it only took one pitch to break the tie. Ortiz turned on an Alvarez breaking ball that didn't do much breaking, drilling it ten rows deep over the right field wall at the 365' mark. Big Papi's 15th home run of the season, a no-doubt shot, gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
Two down in the fourth, Ryan Lavarnway doubled into the left field corner for the third Red Sox hit of the game. But Avarez would end the inning without further damage, Will Middlebrooks ending the threat on a dribbler to Prince Fielder.
Miguel Cabrera struck out against Lackey in his first at-bat. His second was far more successful, inside-outing a Lackey fastball in on his fists for a line-drive double off the right-field wall. Cabrera advanced to third on a two-out wild pitch. A run 90 feet away, Victor Martinez worked the count full before hitting the ball hard, but right at first baseman Napoli. After four, the Red Sox were still clinging to their 1-0 lead.
At this point, two Tigers runners had reached second with one out. The Tigers proceeded to go 0-for-4 with a runner in scoring position. The Red Sox would a tad more successful with ducks on the pond in the next half inning.
Iglesias led off the fifth with looked like a line-drive single to right. For some reason, Hunter just plain didn't get to it, the ball rolling all the way to the scoreboard. By the time Hunter had flagged it down, Iglesias had himself a triple. Ellsbury followed with an RBI single to push the Red Sox lead to 2-0.
The Tigers generated another threat in the bottom half of the fifth, loading the bases two out. Andy Dirks walked with one down, Pena singled him to second with two out, Austin Jackson's swinging bunt infield single loading the bases.
This time, The Tigers would get a two-out hit with runners in scoring position, Hunter coming through with an RBI single.
Hunter didn't hit the ball remotely hard, but his bloop fell between Pedroia and Victorino in short right, Dirks and Pena racing home to tie the game at 2-all. Jackson had advanced to third on the play, runners now on the corners with two out for Cabrera. Lackey was able to pitch out of the jam by firing a 1-2 fastball past Cabrera, striking him out for the second time on the night.
The night was not over for Lackey, but it was for Alvarez. Having been taken off the hook as the pitcher of record thanks to the Tigers' two-run rally, Leyland decided to not temp fate any further with the rookie starter. Luke Putkonen replaced the Alvarez to start the sixth, retiring the Red Sox in order.
Facing the bottom of the order in the seventh, Putkonen retired the first two batters he faced (with help from a spectacular running catch by Jackson on Middlebrook's drive to deep center). With the left-hand swinging Ellsbury due up, Leyland replaced Putkonen with his not-a-LOOGY, Phil Coke. Used as he should be, Coke did his job, striking out Ellsbury on three pitches.
Dirks led off the seventh with a single, which meant it was time for the Tigers' failed bunt of the game. Today's contestant to have the bat taken out of his hands was Infante, who is hitting .308 on the season and.373/.412/.542 at Comerica Park in 2013. Infante completed his fail-filled mission, popping up his sacrifice attempt for the first out of the inning.
The seventh went downhill from there, Pena bouncing into a fielder's choice and Jackson striking out. UGH.
The game went downhill from there (as it would turn out, temporarily), thanks to Leyland's brutal bullpen management. After using Coke perfectly in the seventh, Leyland ignored Coke's ugly splits and left him in the game to face the right-hand hitting Victorino and Pedroia. Coke needed only eight pitches to give Ortiz an RBI opportunity, walking both.
Coke proceeded to cough up the lead, Ortiz breaking the tie with an RBI single to right. Two on, no one out and a run in, only at that point had Leyland decided he had seen enough of his not-a-LOOGY. He called on Smyly to pitch out of trouble, the baseball world wondering what the hell Leyland was smoking, waiting until this point to use the best lefty in his pen. Smyly struck out Napoli and retired Johnny Gomes on a foul pop. After hitting Lavarnway to load the bases, Smyly did what Coke couldn't -- get out the inning. Middlebrooks flew out to short right to end the Red Sox threat.
Regardless of Smyly's heroics, the Tigers still found themselves down 3-2.
Fielder made a bid to tie the game with two out in the bottom of the eighth. Koji Uehara now in the game for Lackey, who was pulled after seven strong innings, Fielder pounded a fly ball to deep ... oh, crap ... to deep right center, where fly balls go to die. Ellsbury ran the fly down in front of the scoreboard to end the inning. I'm sure Lynn Henning smiled knowingly.
Smyly remained in the game to pitch the ninth, allowing a two-out double to Victorino. Pedroia tried to sucker home plate umpire Scott Barry into a walk by tossing his bat and taking off for first after going around trying to check his swing. Berry had none of it, punching Pedroia out for strike three.
Smyly had kept the Tigers in the game, striking out the side. It would be up to a stagnant offense to pull it out against Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey.
Martinez led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, immediately replaced by pinch runner Don Kelly. Turned out Donnie Baseball wouldn't have to do much.
Down 1-2 in the count to Bailey, Peralta jumped all over an off-speed pitch, drilling a line drive into the left-field bullpen for a two-run, game-winning home run and a walk-off Tigers victory!
That came out of FREAKING NOWHERE.
A walk-off game over! It's nice to see the Tigers on the winning side of a walk-off for a change.
I'm not at all happy when it comes to how Leyland managed (or mismanaged) the game. But I am thrilled with the result, which is what counts. Still. Stop the bunting and stop misusing Phil Coke!
Post game, when asked about his
misuse of Coke, Leyland was visibly annoyed.
"What about him? What about him? What's your question?"
He proceeded to use the small sample size defense in regard to Coke pitching in the eighth. Leyland claimed he was worried about Ellsbury and Ortiz, who were 2-for-24 combined against Coke in their careers, especially noting Ortiz was 1-for-15. Leyland made sure to say Coke struck out Ellsbury, then added:
"He didn't do very good, had a tough outing. He walked guys. He walked 'em, and that's a no-no. (Gives annoyed glance at WXYT's Jeff Riger, who asked about the use of Coke) Any other questions?"
With the victory, the Tigers snap a two-game home losing streak, raising their record to 40-31 on the season. With the second-place Indians idle, the Tigers gain a 1/2 game in the standings, their division lead now four games.
Game two of the weekend series features Red Sox lefty Jon Lester (6-4, 4.37 ERA) taking on the Tigers' tall man, Doug Fister (6-4, 3.21 ERA). Lester has been in a major funk, 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA in his last six starts. Fister's last start was brilliant, taking a no-hitter into the sixth in a win over the Twins. Friday's first pitch is scheduled for 7:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
There was a last-minute lineup change for the Tigers. Matt Tuiasosopo was scratched with mild intercostal strain, which is a strain of the rib cage. Andy Dirks got the start in Big Squiggles' stead, batting seventh.
Leyland lost his cool after it was ruled Shane Victorino was hit by a pitch in the third. Replays showed the call was correct, but Leyland seemed to be trolling for a confrontation. It never came, Leyland getting some choice words and finger points in before heading back to the dugout. It really felt like the Tigers' skipper was making much ado about nothing.
As good of an explanation for the Tigers recent struggles on offense as any:
Theory: Tigers often struggle at the plate due to excess time studying new complicated handshakes.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) June 20, 2013
Rod Allen quote of the day, the Tigers' color man talking about Victor Martinez's days in Boston:
"Victor got out of there just in time because a couple of years ago they had that whole chicken thing goin' on in the clubhouse."
If you think Torii Hunter has been average at best in right, well, it's not just you. His playing a single into a triple, which ultimately cost the Tigers a run in the fifth, resulted in this press box insult:
OH in pressbox: "That was Boeschian"— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) June 21, 2013
Austin Jackson made the defensive play of the game in seventh, robbing Will Middlebrooks of extra bases. Jackson just plain out-ran Middlebrook's 410-foot drive to center, making an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track. Not even Don Kelly runs that ball down.
Why roll the dice with Phil Coke in the eighth? Via Jason Beck, this is the explanation we've been given, the same we get after Alex Avila failed in a Leyland-called hit-and-run. To get him going.
Leyland has said several times #Tigers need to get Phil Coke going. Probably more important now with Benoit closing. Hasn't happened so far.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) June 21, 2013
The internets were not at all happy with Coke:
The AP's Dave Hogg sums up a crazy day:
Twenty-four seasons covering the Tigers, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time both closers lost their jobs on the same day.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) June 21, 2013
Both closers for first-place teams. Baseball sure is a funny game.
Jhonny Peralta: Bailed out Jim Leyland by taking Andrew Bailey out of the park for a walk-off two-run home run. So much for the narrative that the Tigers can't score runs after the seventh inning ... for one game, anyway.
Jose Alvarez: Wasn't as effective as he was in first start, but Alvarez did just fine. I'll take two runs allowed in five innings, from essentially your sixth starter, against the first-place team in the AL East. Alvarez allowed five hits, walking two, striking out three, throwing 85 pitches.
Drew Smyly: Smyly held the Red Sox scoreless over two innings, striking out four. One of these days Jim Leyland will figure out how to use Smyly correctly. Being that Leyland used Phil Coke to start the eighth instead of Smyly, he clearly still hasn't got it down.
Luke Putkonen: Retired all five Red Sox batters he faced.
Torii Hunter: His two-RBI single to tie the game in the fifth didn't completely make up for his defensive miscue, but it did get the Tigers back in the game.
Jim Leyland: Memo to Jim Leyland: FREE OUTS ARE BAD! He took the bat out of Omar Infante's hands with Andy Dirks on first in the seventh inning, calling for a ridiculous sacrifice bunt. The bunt was awful strategy to begin with, but when you factor Infante's .308 batting average, .955 (!!!) OPS at Comerica Park, and number nine hitting backup catcher Brayan Pena batting behind him, the bunt went from stupid to certifiably idiotic.
Jim Leyland: His ridiculous use of Phil Coke in the eighth inning against right-handers Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia nearly lost the game. Coke needed only eight pitches to walk both batters and give David Oritiz an RBI opportunity. Ortiz singled home the tie-breaking run, THEN Leyland pulled Coke for the far more effective Drew Smyly, who would pitch out of a two-on, none-out jam. If you were going to use Smyly, who can actually get right-handed bats out, WHY WAIT?
This really isn't as difficult as Leyland makes it seem— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 21, 2013
Phil Coke: Yes, he was misused. But as a big league pitcher, you still have to throw strikes!
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Matt Tuiasosopo's pinch-hit, two-RBI double was the highlight of a miserable 13-3 loss to the Orioles. Tuiasosopo was rewarded with BYB's PotG for his efforts, taking 86% of the vote.