A sellout crowd of 41,686 witnessed the Detroit Tigers racing to a 7-0 lead over the first two innings, coasting to an easy 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers. For the sixth time in 2013, the Tigers reach their high water mark of ten games over .500, now at 51-41 on the season.
Doug Fister's (7-5) last win was back on June 16, and struggled in his last two starts, allowing six runs in both appearances. Tonight, Fister received credit for the win, even if he wasn't at his sharpest. Fister scattered eight hits in a six inning quality start, but given rare big time run support, held the Rangers to just two runs. The Tigers' bullpen held the Rangers at bay, Bruce Rondon, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit shutting out the Rangers over the final three innings.
Losing pitcher Justin Grimm left the game due to injury after 3 1/3 innings. The injury may have done him a favor, being Grimm had surrendered ten hits and seven runs.Joseph Ortiz replaced Grimm and was marvelous, allowing just an infield hit over 3 2/3 innings. but the Rangers' offense wasn't up the task against Tigers' pitching.
The Tigers had 11 base hits on the night, nine of those coming in the first and second innings. From the one and two spots in the order, Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter combined for four hits and four runs. Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta had two RBIs apiece for the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera added to his MLB leading RBI total with a sacrifice fly, now at 95 on the season.
Fister dished out four run first innings in his last two starts. Tonight, Fister did not allow an early run. Things were looking up! They were more than just looking up after the bottom half of the inning. Back-to-back doubles off the bats of Jackson and Hunter gave the Tigers an early 1-0 lead.
Jackson slapped Grimm's 0-2 pitch inside the first base bag. Thinking two base hit all the way, Jackson dared Nelson Cruz to throw him. Cruz didn't take the dare, Jackson legging out a double. He would take a nonchalant trip home, easily scoring on Hunter's double into the left field corner.
Grimm proceeded to dig himself a deeper hole, walking Cabrera and serving up a single to Prince Fielder, loading the bases for the smoking hot Martinez. Grimm didn't give Martinez much to hit ... but he didn't hit the strike zone either, walking Martinez to increase the Tigers' lead to 2-0.
Bases still juiced for Peralta, Grimm hung a first pitch breaking ball. Peralta jumped all over it, lashing a two RBI double past Profar in left (MLB.com video). Cabrera and Fielder scored, the Tigers up 4-0, Grimm yet to record an out.
Runners on second and third, Andy Dirks had an awful at bat, striking out swinging on four pitches. But Alex Avila did come through with runners in scoring position and less than two out, his duck snort to short left dropping for an RBI single. Grimm got out of the inning when Ramon Santiago bounced into a double play. but the Tigers had inflicted plenty of damage, putting a crooked number on the board. They sent nine to the plate, scoring five runs on five hits.
Top of two, Fister didn't exactly toss a shutdown inning, giving up a pair of hits. But he did keep the Rangers off the board, with help of 6-4-3 double play.
The Tigers came out bats still afire in the bottom half of the second. Jackson and Hunter leading off their second consecutive inning with back-to-back hits. Both singled to put runners on the corners for Cabrera. Cabrera gave the ball a ride, but to the wrong -part of Comerica. Leonys Martín flagging the ball down in deep right center. The long sacrifice fly pushed the Tigers lead to 6-0, raising Cabrera's MLB leading RBI total to 95.
After Fielder popped up for the second out, Martinez just missed a home run, but extended his hitting streak to 14 games by lining a double over the head of Profar. Had the Rangers executed a good relay, they would have easily nailed Hunter at the plate. But Profar airmailed the first relay man. The throw of the second relay man, Adrian Beltre, easily beat Hunter to the plate, but was high. That gave Hunter the extra half second he needed to sneak his hand past Pierzynski, scoring when he should have been out by five feet.
Rangers manager Ron Washington argued the call, but to no avail. Replays confirmed Hunter was safe thanks to his slick slide. The Tigers had plated two more runs on four hits, extending their lead to 7-0.
Fister had allowed base runners in each of the first three innings, but were unable to score. Pierzynski took matters into his own hands, taking Fister yard with one out in the fourth. Pierzynski's ninth home run of the season, a solo shot to right, pulled the Rangers to within six at 7-1.
Fister didn't get out of the fourth without allowing a second run, the Rangers chipping away at the Tigers' lead. Elvis Andrus singled, stole second (because everyone runs on the Tigers) and scored on Profar's two out RBI bouncer through the right side.
As Gene Lamont was on the horn to get arms up in the bullpen, Fister proceeded to load to the bases with two out. Martin singled, Ian Kinsler drawing a walk. But Fister managed to leave the bases loaded, dodging a big time bullet by striking out David Murphy on three straight breaking balls.
Fister had kept the damage to two runs, but his lack of command and a pitch count of 78 through four meant the Tigers' bullpen would be getting some work in.
One down in the fourth, Cabrera singled. Grimm started flexing his arm, sending a gaggle of Rangers to mound. The Rangers' trainer led Grimm off the field with an undetermined injury, replaced by the left-hander, Ortiz.
Gimm's final line was, to be honest and punny, grim - 3 1/3 innings., 10 hits, 7 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts.
After a rocky fourth which elevated his pitch count, Fister tossed a badly needed 1-2-3 fifth, needing a mere eight pitches to retire the side. That allowed the Tall Man to last six full innings, holding the Rangers to the two fourth inning runs and eight hits, throwing 106 pitches total. At that point, Fister received Jim Leyland's "Handshake of Doom," the final three innings falling on the shoulders of the bullpen.
The first shoulder was that of Rondon. (And yes, Rob is still trying to make "Heavy B" happen).
Rondon had the best inning of his short career, throwing nine pitches, all strikes, setting the Rangers down in order. That was the sort of performance the Tigers and their fans had been waiting to see from the fire-balling youngster. It was a huge step up over his last appearance, Rondon serving up two runs, two hits and a walk in an inning of work against the White Sox on Wednesday.
Ortiz was still on the mound for the Rangers in the seventh, and was still dealing. He allowed his first hit on a Fielder swinging bunt. Otherwise, Ortiz was near flawless, retiring 11-of-12 while holding the Tigers scoreless in 3 2/3 innings of relief.
The Tigers' lead holding steady at five runs, and Rodon having been dominant in the seventh, Leyland asked the big rookie to face the eighth inning lead off man, Beltre. Rondon needed only one pitch to induce Beltre into a 5-3 ground out. Lefty on deck and Smyly ready to go, Leyland pulled the rookie right-hander, who left to an appreciative ovation from the Comerica Park crowd.
Smyly was Smyly. That being, he was solid, as usual. Though the annoying Pierzynski greeted him with a single, Smyly got the last two outs of the eighth with little effort.
Top of nine, Smyly didn't get much help from his defense, which unnecessarily extended the inning. One down, Peralta's throw was low, Fielder outright dropping it, allowing Martin to reach base on what was ruled an E-3 (though Peralta's throw was nothing to brag about). After a Kinsler single and fielder's choice, Leyland called on his closer to get the final out ... in a five run game, natch! But that's our skipper!
Barely breaking a sweat, Benoit blew away Cruz, quickly striking him out on three pitches to end a Tigers victory.
GAME OVER. Your final score is Tigers 7, Rangers 2, Rondon 10 (strikes).
The last thing the Tigers needed after an excellent 7-4 road trip was stumbling into the All-Star break with a bad home stand. It got off to an awful start, losing 2-of-3 to the last place White Sox. three games left in the first half, he Tigers had their work cut out for them facing the second place in the West Rangers.
The Tigers took their lead from yesterday's Jim Leyland umpire histrionics, blowing the Rangers out early. The game was well in hand after two innings, playing out quickly from there in a relatively quick 2:49. It was the best of both worlds, a relatively easy win which took less than three hours.
Games pushing four hours is ridiculous. I miss the days of Mark Fidrych and his under two hour performances. That's the way baseball is meant to be played. Fast!
The Tigers reach the ten games over .500 mark ... again, the win raising their record to 51-41. Their lead remains at 2 1/2 games, the Indians keeping pace in the Central by shutting out the Royals 3-0.
In the penultimate game before the All-Star break, the Rangers send lefty Derek Holland (7-4, 3.19 ERA) to the mound, facing undefeated Max Scherzer (13-0, 3.06 ERA). Holland is coming off a win over the Orioles, allowing three runs, scattering ten hits over 6 2/3 innings. Recipient of a no-decision in his last appearance, Scherzer has yet to lose in 19 starts this season. With a victory, Scherzer will equal Roger Clemens' 14-0 start to the 1986 season.
Word of warning. The 7:15 PM first pitch means the Rangers vs. Tigers are part of FOX's Baseball Night in America regional coverage. Depending on your area, ridiculous blackouts and lousy play-by-play will apply.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Graphs don't get much better than this:
Entering the game, Miguel Cabrera was residing with rare company. He's joined Joe Dimaggio, the criminally forgotten "Double X," Jimmie Foxx (his average OPS from 1928-41 was 1.066!), Babe Ruth (Twice!) and Lou Gehrig as the only players to hit .360 with 30 plus home runs and 90 plus RBIs in the first 90 games of a season. Cabrera isn't just hanging with Hall of Famers, but baseball legends.
Gotta love Tigers fans. After Andy Dirks struck out with runners in scoring position in the first:
The bus to Toledo is idling in the Comerica parking lot.— Alexandra Simon (@catswithbats) July 12, 2013
After Ramon Santiago bounced into an inning and rally ending double play:
For those of you not in the know, Conquistador is what those in the BYB game threads have deemed young middle infielder Hernan Perez.
Dirks is scuffling badly, popping up AGAIN in the second.
Dirks has popped up 6 of his last 7 at bats? And the one non had a pop up foul? That strikes me as a swing plane thing...— Paul Wezner (@TigsTown) July 12, 2013
Before scoring the Tigers' seventh run, Torii Hunter nearly ran the Tigers out of the second inning. On Miguel Cabrera's sacrifice fly, Hunter wandered too far off first, and should have been dead to rights. The throw beat Hunter to the bag, but he used arm gymnastics during his head-first slide to somehow avoid the tag.
His slide home was even better.
A.J. Pierzynski went yard in the fourth, to the dismay of all things righteous.
Every time AJ Pierzynski hits a home run, a puppy catches on fire somewhere.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) July 13, 2013
Also, an angel cuts off their wings.
Justin Grimm was removed from the game with an injury in the fourth.
How many Texas Rangers does it take to change a pitcher? (No, it's not a joke ... asking for real — everyone signaling)— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) July 13, 2013
The puns reached a crescendo as well.
Texas pitcher just left the game in pain, with a Grimmace.— Bob Wojnowski (@bobwojnowski) July 13, 2013
Certainly not a fairytale ending for Grimm.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) July 13, 2013
Tigers lead 7-2 in 4th. Rangers forced to use the Grimm Reaper in this game.— Bob Wojnowski (@bobwojnowski) July 13, 2013
Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay:
With a runner on second and two out in the sixth, Leonys Martin insisted he had been hit by a Doug Fister wild pitch. Replays were inconclusive, but Alex Avila made sure there would not be a phantom hit by pitch.
Avila threw that ball in the dugout so they couldn't check it. Really smart.— Jordan Gorosh (@JGoro8) July 13, 2013
At the same time, the fans were paying more attention to the WAVE than the action on the field, as shown on the left side of the screen cap:
For all that is righteous, STOP THE WAVE AT COMERICA.
We were residing in Bizarro World during the seventh (Click pic below for more GIF goodness):
Infield single for Prince. 1-2-3 inning for Rondon. Up is down. Down is up.— Scott Warheit (@swarheit) July 13, 2013
GIF via @WiorldofIsaac.
As good as Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit have been for the Tigers, and as encouraging as Bruce Rondon was tonight, Jim Leyland is expecting more than he's gotten from his bullpen, naming names.
"That's what's frustrating. We know Alburquerque got the equipment, we know Coke's got the equipment. We just got to get those guys going, somehow. That's my responsibility and Jeff Jones."
Top of the order: Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter put the Rangers behind the eight ball early, triggering crooked number rallies in the first and second innings. Combined for a 4-for-9, four runs scored, one RBI night.
Jhonny Peralta: Broke out of a slump with two hits and two RBIs.
Bruce Rondon: Ten pitches, ten strikes, four up, four down. Love it.
Doug Fister: Tossed a quality start, six innings, two runs. Wasn't at his best, but far better than he's been when channeling his inner Jeremy Bonderman over his last few appearances.
Andy Dirks: Coming off a decent road trip, Dirks has been brutal on the home stand. Tonight the Tigers' left fielder was 0-for-4, striking out once, popping up in his other three at bats. It's not fun to watch Dirks at struggle mightily at the plate with his swing broken, hitting nothing but pop flies.
Dirks went 9-for-35 on last #Tigers road trip, is 0-for-9 since returning home: FF5, FF2, F7, P4, P6, Ks, FF2, P6, FF7— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) July 13, 2013
Ramon Santiago: Batting average is down to a miserable .160 after an 0-for-4 night.
A.J. Pierzynski: Just because. Damn, he gets better as he ages.
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TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
Jim Leyland's virtuoso ump baiting was thrown into the balloting in the spur of the moment, but his showing up the umpires not once or twice, but three times, earned the appreciation of the BYB readership, taking the number one spot with 42% of the vote.