Tigers 7, Blue Jays 6: Jays plucked on Torii Hunter's game-winning single in eighth

Tom Szczerbowski

A rare script for the 2013 Tigers: Come from behind, then score late to win a tight one-run game.

What began as a slug-fest ended as a pitchers' duel, the Detroit Tigers breaking a 6-6 tie in the eighth inning on Torii Hunter's RBI single to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6. The Tigers used four pitchers to the Toronto Blue Jays' six, the two bullpens combining for 10 1/3 innings of one-run baseball.

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera left the game in the ninth with a back issue. Manager Jim Leyland said his back stiffened up after a diving play in the first inning, but couldn't say if the AL's leading hitter would miss tomorrow's game.

Tigers starter Doug Fister didn't look like a pitcher who would get out of the first inning, let alone pitch relatively deep into the game. After allowing six runs on six hits in the first two innings, Fister would pitch six innings total, shutting down the Jays on one single over his final four innings. Al Alburquerque, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit combined to shut out the Jays over the final three innings, Alburquerque (1-1) earning the win, Smyly a hold and Benoit his sixth save.

A shell-shocked Chien-Ming Wang was given a 4-0 lead by the Jays, yet couldn't get out of the second, allowing six runs and eight hits in just 1 2/3 innings. Wasting no time, Wang was DFA'd by the Blue Jays immediately after the game.

The Jays pen was brilliant, five relievers striking out 12 Tigers on four hits in 7 1/3 innings. But the Tigers were able to scratch across a run off Neil Wagner (1-3) in the eighth, making the Jays' setup man the losing pitcher.

Colby Rasmus had a big night for the Blue Jays offense, with four RBIs off a double and a home run. Jose Bautista reached base four times, scoring twice and batting in one run.

The offensive fireworks on the Tigers' side were led by Hunter's four hits and game-winning RBI. Omar infante had two hits, his second of the night triggering the game-winning rally. Cabrera had a three-run home run for the Tigers and Alex Avila chipped in a two-RBI double.

Raise your hand if you believed that any of the following would happen:

(a) Fister would pitch six innings;
(b) the Tigers would come back from an early 4-0 deficit; or
(c) the Tigers would score the game winning run after the seventh inning.

Didn't think so.

Fister found himself in deep, deep trouble from the onset, putting the Tigers in a 3-0 hole before he could retire a single Blue Jay in the bottom of the first.

Jose Reyes led off with a generously scored single off the glove of Prince Fielder, who couldn't make the backhand grab. Then came the Doug Fister "Hit By Pitch of the Game", brought to you by Doug Fister. This week's winner: Rajai Davis, with his 13th HBP of 2013. Reyes now on second, Bautista ripped Fister's first pitch into left for a line-drive RBI single.

Runners on first and second and Rasmus at the plate, Fister crossed up Avila, resulting in a wild pitch moving both the runners into scoring position. Rasmus would drive in Davis and Bautista, looping a 325-foot opposite-field fly ball into the left field corner. Andy Dirks had been shading Rasmus to left center, and could not make a diving catch as the fly landed in fair territory and bounced into the seats for a two-RBI ground rule double.

Fister retired the next two batters, but couldn't get out of the first without allowing a fourth run. Rasmus on third with two out, Josh Thole slapped a ground ball down the third base line. Cabrera made a lunging stop, but Thole beat the throw for an RBI infield single and 4-0 Jays lead.

Emilio Bonifacio followed by slapping another ground ball down the line, this one getting past a diving Cabrera for a two base hit, Thole racing to third. Fister stopped the bleeding gushing artery at that point, Munenori Kawasaki bouncing out 4-3 to end a nine-batter, five-hit, four-run inning.

Top of two, Wang committed a pitching Cardinal sin. He didn't protect the lead after a big rally in the previous half inning. In fact, Wang completely gave the lead away and then some, unable to get out of the second.

Jhonny Peralta led off the inning with a ground ball single back up the middle. Dirks did the same, hitting a bouncer through the box into center for a base hit.

Infante was 4-for-4 yesterday. Make it 5-for-5 on the series, yanking a line drive which landed just inside the left field line for an RBI double.

Making his first appearance at the plate since going on the DL in mid-June, Avila took Wang to the opposite field, missing a home run by a couple of feet. Avila hit the top of the left field fence at the 328 mark, Davis unable to flag it down until both runners had crossed the plate. Avila's two-RBI double put the Tigers back in the game, just down a run at 4-3.

After an Austin Jackson strikeout, Torii Hunter's single to right sent Avila to third. At this point, with Miguel Cabrera coming to the plate, FSD's Mario Impemba predicted what was going to happen next:

"You get the feeling the Tigers are about to take the lead, because here comes Cabrera."

With one swing of his mighty bat, Cabrera did just that. Served a belt-high meatball by Wang, Cabrera launched a three-run home run off the front of the lower deck in right center. The opposite-field bomb was number 26 on the season, raising his MLB-leading RBI total to a ridiculous 85.

With two out, Victor Martinez singled to center. At that point, manager John Gibbons had no choice but to -- how shall I put this -- yank, Wang. Gibbons called on right-hander Juan Perez, who walked Peralta before retiring Dirks on a fly ball to end a long pair of half innings.

Though many fans were well on their way to writing off the Tigers after falling behind 4-0, they refused to roll over and had countered the Jays by scoring six runs on seven hits.

In need of a shutdown inning, Fister instead channeled his inner Wang. Things were looking good, Fister retiring the first two batters he faced in the second. But in the blink of an eye, he gave up the lead. After Bautista took a walk, Rasmus hammered Fister's first offering, sending an off-speed pitch over the 400-foot mark in dead center field. Rasmus' two-run homer was his 15th big fly of the season, and tied the game at 6-all.

Unfortunately, Perez didn't get the memo about "bad pitching is required to enter Rogers Centre" memo. He struck out the side in the third, putting on a shocking display of competent pitching.

Fister, his pitch count pushing 60 and in need of a quick inning, got one in the bottom half of the third. He retired the side in order on a mere eight pitches. After playing softball for two innings, the Tigers and Blue Jays had a rogue six-out, no-base-runners inning. Shocking, I know.

The Tigers finally had themselves a man on in the fourth. Hunter led off the inning with a single to left. Cabrera popped up for the first out. Hunter stole second as Fielder was striking out (after being up in the count 3-0). Martinez made a bid for an RBI extra base shot, but Maicer Izturis made a lunging, backhand grab, then threw a turf aided one-hopper to nail Martinez at first, saving a run and ending the inning.

Perez was solid for the Jays, allowing one hit over 2 1/3 innings. But Gibbons went to left-hander Aaron Loup in the top of the fifth. Loup allowed a home run to Infante in his one inning of work on Monday. No such luck today, Loup tossing a 1-2-3 inning.

Fister had settled down since the second, setting down seven straight until Bautista hit a long single to left center in the fifth. Fister sat down the next three Jays in order without incident. What had been a slug-fest had become a pitchers' duel. Baseball sure is a funny game.

Gibbons was channeling his inner Robin Ventura, burning through his bullpen as if he had a 35-man September roster, making pitching changes on a whim every inning. Pitching the sixth was another lefty, Brett Cecil. The Tigers had their first extra base hit since the second, Jackson lining a double into the left field corner. Two down and first base still open, Gibbons elected to intentionally walk Cabrera, preferring to pitch to Fielder.

The move worked, but the Jays also got a little lucky. Fielder hit the ball hard, sending a sinking line drive to left. But Davis hit the turf in left center to make a sliding catch, robbing Fielder, saving a run and ending the threat.

Amazingly, after a 39-pitch first inning, one hit away from being on the ropes, Fister was still in the game and dealing. In complete control, he tossed another 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. Since Rasmus' second-inning homer, Fister had retired 13-of-14 Blue Jays, allowing just the fifth-inning single to Bautista. But at 105 pitches through six, Jim Leyland made the call to pull the Tall Man.

Fister had pitched two completely different games. A two-inning, six-run, six-hit debacle, and a four-inning, one-hit, no-run masterpiece.

Meanwhile, the Tigers had reverted back into their offensive funk, waving futilely at Cecil's pitches. Throwing all kinds of junk, the lefty struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh. That gave the Jays bullpen eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 scoreless innings of work.

The Tigers finally went to the bullpen in bottom half of the seventh, Alburquerque taking over. He pitched around the always dangerous Bautista, striking out Rasmus to end the inning.

Another inning, another Blue Jays reliever. Gibbons went with his right-handed setup man, Wagner. The white-hot Infante greeted Wagner with a single to center, his sixth hit of the series. Avila was asked to sacrifice, which he laid down without incident ... thank God.

Jackson hit the ball hard, but to the wrong part of the park. Rasmus ran down his line drive on the warning track in left center, Infante tagging up and moving to third with two down.

Taking the extra base paid off in a run. Hunter ripped a hard one-hopper off the leg of Warner, which deflected to Reyes at short. Reyes had to make a bare-hand grab, then fire off the bounce to first ... but a hustling Hunter beat the throw by a half step, if that. Infante scored on the RBI infield single, the Tigers retaking the lead 7-6.

Called on in a high-leverage situation, protecting a one-run eighth-inning lead, was Drew Smyly. The old-school fireman had it easy, entering the game with the bases empty. They remained that way, Smyly retiring the side in order.

Make it a half dozen Jays pitchers on the night. Gibbons made one final pitching change, lefty Darren Oliver taking over in the ninth. He would strike out two in a hitless inning, giving the Jay bullpen a dozen strikeouts. But if Benoit could get three more outs, those strikeouts would be moot.

Leading off, Bonifacio tried to cross up the Tigers by bunting his way on. Benoit didn't panic, cleanly picked the bunt, made an on-target throw and nipped Bonifacio at first by an eyelash for the first out. Pitcher fielding practice pays off!

The Jays kept trying to bunt their way on, albeit unsuccessfully. Trying to lay one down, Kawasaki looked to have offered for strike two, but replays showed Benoit's pitch hit him in the foot. Home plate umpire Alan Porter didn't agree, calling it strike two. Gibbons made it known he was very unhappy with Porter's decision making. He reacted by ejecting the Jays' pitching-change-crazy manager.

Kawasaki battled back to a full count before Benoit blew him away with an outside fastball for the second out.

The Jays final hope was Reyes. One weak ground ball to second later, Benoit had his sixth save and the Tigers a very, very, very badly needed come-from-behind victory. A one-run victory with the winning score coming post-seventh inning, at that.

GAME OVER. Your final score is Tigers 7, Blue Jays 6, fans relieved. My God, the Tigers were long overdue to win a tight game in the late innings.

The Tigers move to 44-38 overall, currently tied with the Indians for first place in the AL Central. But the Tribe lead the now Jeff Francoeur-less Royals late, so the Tigers' stay in first place remains tenuous.

Max Scherzer looks to make it lucky 13 in game three of the Tigers' series with the Blue Jays.The first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986 to start a season 12-0, Scherzer (12-0, 3.10 ERA) takes on the Jays' Josh Johnson (1-2, 5.21 ERA). Expected to anchor the Jays' rotation, Johnson was 0-1, 6.86 before going on the DL in early May. Activated June 4, Johnson has posted a 4.08 ERA in five June starts. First pitch at Rogers Centre is 7:07 PM.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

FSD has the wacky numbers from the bottom of the first and the top of the second:

Numbersa_medium

For those tracking Miguel Cabrera opposite-field bombs, Matthew B. Mowery has your back.

My God, Cabrera is having an absolutely amazing season.

Phil Coke's Brain gets all chart crazy, like Rod Allen:

Got to give Rob kudos, he's riling up National League fans who believe the double switch is the pinnacle of ultimate baseball strategy.

Give NL managers credit. Deciding whether to bunt in the first or second inning is hard.

BURN.

Aww. (I suggest Eric Carmen's "All by Myself" as Luke Putkonen's theme song)

Lupu_medium

There's a huge downside to a successful sacrifice bunt leading to a run:

Meanwhile, in Cincy:

Cabrera was replaced by Ramon Santiago on defense in the ninth. Before PANIC sets in, it was due to a tweaked back and not considered serious.

WHEW.

THREE ROARS:

Miguel Cabrera: With the Tigers fan base on the verge of turning on the team, Cabrera did what he always does - extremely remarkable things with a bat in his hands. His three-run bomb erased the Blue Jays big early lead.

Torii Hunter: Four hits and the game-winning RBI? You get a ROAR.

Omar Infante: Infante has taken to the cold, Canada air and frozen tundra of Rogers Centre like a moose to the Yukon (I know, I know, it's summer), starting the game-winning rally in the eighth. With two hits tonight, Infante is 6-for-8 in the series.

BONUS ROARS:

Doug Fister, innings three through six: Give Fister credit, it looked for a time as if the bullpen was going to be force-fed six or seven innings of work. Instead, Fister settled down and gutted through six innings. Over the final four he was nearly unhittable. Despite the six runs, Fister still reached a Tigers milestone:

The bullpen: Alburquerque in the seventh, Smyly in the eighth, Benoit in the ninth. Three innings, no runs, no hits, a win, hold, and save. Just how Jim Leyland drew it up.

Alex Avila: A huge two-RBI double for Avila was a nice way to make his return to the lineup.

THREE HISSES:

Doug Fister innings one and two: There was some bad luck involved in Fister allowing six runs in two innings, but the home run to Rasmus with two down in the second was killer. Regardless of luck, you have to expect better from Fister. Six runs over six innings won't cut it.

Prince Fielder: Just when you think Fielder might get it going, he has an 0-for-5 night.

Avila's bunt: NAH! I'm just messing with you. Late in the game and in need of just one run, I have no problem with a sacrifice bunt. The vast majority of the time I rail against bunting, but tonight was that 5% of the time when laying one down makes sense. It's those nutso sacrifices Leyland calls far too early in games that drive me to distraction.

ROLL CALL:

Roll Call Info
Total comments 1,039
Total commenters 41
Commenter list BigAl, ButternutMI, C5wynn, Cabbylander, DJ Screw, Grand Rapids Howie, Higgs Boson in my pants, HookSlide, JWurm, J_the_Man, Jacob30, Joaquin on Sunshine, LetsGoTigers84, MSUDersh, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, RedWingedLigerFan, Rob Rogacki, SabreRoseTiger, SanDiegoMick, Scarsdale_Vibe, ShowingBunt, Singledigit, SpartanBoiler, Starsailor, TheLegacyofJordanTata, There Can Only Be One Verlander, Tigerdog1, Trout Jefferson, Verlanderful, Wolfgang97, aelix, bobrob2004, dishnet34, dominator039, japobere, knucklescarbone, nicolas08, rbbaker, rock n rye, stevenyc, tigerlover
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/7/2/4487918/game-82-tigers-at-blue-jays-7-07-p-mhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/7/2/4488446/game-82-overflow-tigers-at-blue-jays

TOP TEN COMMENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 Joaquin on Sunshine 117
2 JWurm 81
3 SabreRoseTiger 78
4 stevenyc 76
5 Jacob30 76
6 HookSlide 63
7 J_the_Man 62
8 rock n rye 47
9 Rob Rogacki 41
10 MSUDersh 40

TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
7 SabreRoseTiger Sorry it's late. I had to log back into my image server
3 Rob Rogacki For real though
2 HookSlide Are you sure it was Photoshopped?
2 HookSlide Would you say ...
2 Rob Rogacki I will feel bad for him on other nights

GAME 81 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Omar Infante was one of the few Tigers to cross the Canadian border wearing their hitting shoes, his 4-for-4, two-RBI game making him BYB PotG in a walkover, taking 92% of the vote.

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