Tigers 7, A's 6: Torii Hunter's walk off three run home run averts disaster

Duane Burleson

A four-run ninth-inning rally, capped by Torii Hunter's walk-off home run, rescued the Tigers from what would have been a disastrous four-game sweep by the A's. Max Scherzer received a no-decision, keeping his record at 19-1.


Final - 8.29.2013 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oakland Athletics 2 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 6 12 0
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 4 7 15 1
WP: Joaquin Benoit (4 - 0)
LP: Grant Balfour (0 - 3)

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The Oakland Athletics were one out away from a devastating four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers and giving Max Scherzer only his second loss of the season. But Torii Hunter took matters into his own hands, blasting a three-run home run off A's closer Grant Balfour to give the Tigers a 7-6 walk off victory. Hunter's big fly also gave Scherzer a no-decision, keeping record at 19-1.

Miguel Cabrera left the game after five innings with an abdominal injury. Post game, MLB's leading hitter insisted he would be back in the lineup tomorrow.

"This is what we do for a living, for moments like that." -Jim Leyland on the post game celebration

Scherzer was pulled after five innings, allowing six runs (the most Scherzer's allowed this season), five earned, on eight hits. The beneficiary of the game-winning home run was Joaquin Benoit (4-0), who earned the win with a scoreless ninth inning. Saving the Tigers was some sterling bullpen work, Luke Putkonen, Jose Veras and Benoit shutting out the A's on four hits over the final four innings.

In his first start since coming off the 15-day DL, A's starter Bartolo Colon gave up one run and seven hits in five innings of work. Entering the ninth inning with a three-run lead, closer Grant Balfour (0-3) was tagged with the loss, allowing four runs on two hits, walking two in just 2/3 of an inning.

Hunter's three-run bomb was the big hit of the game, but he needed help. Prince Fielder had three hits, a home run and three runs scored. Victor Martinez also had three hits, driving in the first run in the Tigers' ninth-inning rally. Brayan Pena and Cabrera added two hits reach, Pena chipping in an RBI.

The A's Brandon Moss continued his home run barrage; a sixth-inning two-run shot was his fourth of the series. Jed Lowrie had three hits and two RBIs in the losing effort.

The Tigers were one out and two strikes from entering a big weekend series with the Cleveland Indians on a four-game losing streak. With one swing of the bat, Hunter averted disaster, giving the Tigers and their fans a badly needed boost.

For the fourth straight game, the A's took an early lead. Max Scherzer and the Tigers were in a two-run hole three batters into the first inning.  Scherzer was on his way to making it four straight below average bad starts in a row by the Tigers' vaunted rotation.

The always troublesome Coco Crisp led off with a double to center. One out, Jed Lowrie took the first pitch he saw over the right field wall. Lowrie's tenth home run put the A's in command with a 2-0 lead.

While the Tigers were putting a runner on base, then doing nothing with said runner against Bartolo Colon in each of the first three innings, Scherzer was holding the A's scoreless. That changed in the top of the fourth.

Leading off, Alberto Callaspo doubled to right. Seth Smith lined a single to right, Callaspo stopping at second. Don Kelly was charged with an error when Prince Fielder couldn't handle the lobbed-in throw, allowing both runners to advance into scoring position. Daric Barton hit a sacrifice fly to center fielder, Callaspo scoring to make it 3-0 A's.

Smith advanced to third after tagging up on the previous play, putting him in position to score on Eric Sogard's sacrifice fly to short left. A good throw would have had him, and Andy Dirks uncorked a solid one. But catcher Brayan Pena couldn't handle the in-between hop, allowing Smith to slide in with the A's fourth run of the game. Stephen Vogt extended the inning with a two-out single to right, but Scherzer retired Crisp on a fly out to stem the bleeding at 4-0.

"We finally got the biggest one (hit) of all." "Thank God for Torii." -Leyland on Torii Hunter's game winner

The Tigers finally countered the A's offense with a score of their own in the bottom of the fourth. Fielder led off with a single to center. The smoking-hot Victor Martinez followed with a single to right, Fielder holding up at second. Don Kelly grounded into a 3-6 fielder's choice, Fielder advancing to second. Pena hit the ball hard, but Crisp made a nice running catch in right center. Fielder scored on Pena's sacrifice fly, the Tigers pulling within three at 4-1.

Scherzer found more trouble in the top of the fifth. Josh Donaldson led off with a line drive which found the gap in right center, rolling all the way to the scoreboard. By the time Austin Jackson got the ball back in, Donaldson had himself a three-base hit.

Then came what surely felt like the dagger.

Brandon Moss crushed Scherzer's belt-high fastball, sending a no-doubt shot DEEP into the right-field stands. Moss' fourth home run in four games (and seven in his last ten) was his 25th home run of the season, the A's pushing their lead to 6-1. Moss was feasting on Tigers' pitching, hitting .583 with ten RBIs in the series ... and the game wasn't even over yet. Not officially, anyway.

Cabrera showed just how badly banged up he is in the bottom of the fifth. He launched a fly ball to deep right center, bouncing off the scoreboard on one hop. Cabrera was just rounding first while Crisp was making the throw to second. Instead of just holding up with a long single, Cabrera tried to find another gear, couldn't, and was thrown out at second. It wasn't even close.

Worse, Cabrera was in pain and limping, forced to leave the game after five innings. The Tigers would later announce he was dealing with "abdominal discomfort."

Jim Leyland, all but waving the white flag in the top of the sixth, moved Kelly to third, slid Dirks from left field to right, inserted Matt Tuiasosopo in left and brought in Luke Putkonen, called up from Triple-A for just this sort of situation, to take over for Scherzer.

Scherzer was done after five innings, 101 pitches, eight hits, six runs, five earned. For the fourth straight game, a Tigers' starter was knocked out of the game after just five innings. Scherzer was not going to win his 20th, and was on the hook for could have been his second loss of 2013.

Putkonen allowed a lead-off single to Barton, Sogard moving him over with a bunt, the A's giving the Tigers a free out. Putkonen would proceed to pitch out of trouble, striking out Vogt, Crisp lining out to short.

Colon was also pulled after five innings, having just allowed one run and seven hits. Bottom of six, lefty reliever Jerry Blevins was on the mound for the A's. The Tigers' bats, if not completely awake, at least stirred.

Leading off, Fielder hammered a Blevins fastball, clearing the scoreboard in right center. Fielder's solo shot, number 21 on the season, made it a 6-2 game (MLB.com video).

One down, Kelly legged out a chopper to the left side, advancing to second on Pena's bloop single to short right. Wanting to keep the inning from spiraling out of control, Bob Melvin called for right-hander Dan Otero out of the bullpen.

Kelly on third after Infante bounced into a fielder's choice, Ramon Santiago's seeing-eye single through the right side made it a 6-3 game. The Tigers were kinda, sorta back in the game.

Putkonen kept the Tigers in the game with solid relief. Top of seven, he sandwiched a Lowrie single around three strike outs.

Bottom of seven, the Tigers threatened ... but did not score. Fielder and Martinez had back-to-back singles with two out. Melvin went back to his bullpen, replacing Otero with left-hander Sean Doolittle. Leyland countered by pinch-hitting Torii Hunter. In the battle of strategy, Melvin won. Doolittle ending the inning on Hunter's ground ball to third.

There was also more positional maneuvering, Kelly now out of the game. Top of eight, Hunter took over in right, Dirks slid back to left field, Tuiasosopo shifted to third base and Jose Veras, making his first appearance in four days, on the mound.

Veras retired the side in order. But Doolittle did the same, the bottom of the Tigers' order going down meekly in 1-2-3 fashion.

Top of nine, Joaquin Benoit made a rare appearance, not having pitched since Saturday. The rust showed. Voft led off with a single, admittedly helped by Jackson's refusal to dive, the ball dropping in front of him. One out, Donaldson ripped a hard ground ball down the third base line with extra bases written all over it. Despite having rarely played the position, Tuiasosopo flashed glove leather at third, making a diving stop, then throwing to second to force Vogt.  This turned out to be a huge play, ultimately saving a run.

Lowrie followed with a single, Donaldson advancing to third. That's where the threat would end; Benoit kept Moss lightning from striking again by retiring the Tiger Killer on a can of corn to left.

The Tigers had one last chance to salvage something, anything out of the series. But they would have to do so against A's closer Grant Balfour. Battling his command, Balfour opened the inning with six consecutive balls, walking Jackson in the process. Up in the count 2-0, Dirks would pop up a 2-2 fastball for the first out.

Hoping to make something happen, Leyland pinch-hit Alex Avila for Tuiasosopo. The count 2-2, Avila was too patient, looking at strike three as Balfour's fastball painted the corner.

Two down, Balfour was a little too careful with Fielder, walking the big man on four pitches. The Tigers couldn't ask for more in Martinez coming to the plate as the tying run. Martinez fell behind in the count 1-2, and after fouling off a couple of pitches he muscled a soft single to center. Jackson raced around from second to pull the Tigers within two at 6-4.

Almost out of nowhere, the Tigers were in position to pull out a win. No one saw that coming. especially the A's.

There were runners on corners for Hunter, who now represented the winning run. Trying to end the game with one swing, Hunter fouled off Balfour's first pitch. The count standing at 1-1, Balfour served up an 84 MPH breaking ball - on a tee. For a second time, Hunter tried to the end the game with one swing.

Hunter connected.

Hitting the ball on the screws, Hunter crushed a fly ball to deep left. Smith raced to the fence, appeared as if he would try to leap for the ball ... then realized it the effort would be futile as the ball sailed into the bullpen.

Torii_walkoff_8-29-13_medium
Hunter was greeted at the plate in what could be best described as a mob scene, because WALK OFF, GAME OVER (Amazing MLB.com video).

Torii_8-29-13_medium

In what was the most stunning, shocking win of the 2013 season, your final score is Tigers 7, A's 6.

A-DAMN-MAZING. Baseball. Wow. Just wow.

The Tigers snap a three-game losing streak, raising their record to 78-56. As for the Central, the Tigers increased their lead to six games. The Indians finish off their series with the Braves tonight.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:

This is bananas!


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

This about covers it for the first eight innings.

Pretty much covers the ninth.

FOUR ROARS:

Torii Hunter: When we look back at the Tigers' 2013 in the rear-view, Hunter's ninth-inning game winner may end up being the most memorable play of the season.

Luke Putkonen: Stopped the bleeding with two shutout innings of relief.

Prince Fielder: A big day from Fielder put the Tigers in a position to make a comeback. Three hits, a home run and a walk in the ninth.

Victor Martinez: Lost in the walk-off drama is Martinez's two-out RBI single. Without that huge hit, Hunter doesn't reach the plate. With three hits today, Martinez is hitting .297 on the season.

BONUS ROARS:

Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit: Even though neither had pitched in four days, they held the A's scoreless in the final two innings.

THREE HISSES:

Max Scherzer: The same thing I said about Doug Fister last night applies to Scherzer. Everyone has a bad game, but his timing was awful. The Tigers needed their ace to be a stopper, but Scherzer didn't stop anything.

Miguel Cabrera's body: Injury after aggravating injury is trying to derail what has been a historic season.

Brandon Moss: Meet your newest Tiger Killer. Moss had a ridiculously good series.

ROLL CALL:

Roll Call Info
Total comments 768
Total commenters 50
Commenter list Alex McHale, BadCompany22, Bent82, C5wynn, Cabbylander, DJ Screw, Designated for Assignment, Emil Sitka, ExTeeBallPitcher, Fielder'sChoice, GVLaker09, GWilson, Grzesio, Honeyman, HookSlide, I Hate Mitch Williams, J_the_Man, JerseyTigerFan, Jim Bunn, Keith-Allen, Kurt Mensching, MSUDersh, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, NCDee, Oberon, RealityIsOptionable, RedWingedLigerFan, Rob Rogacki, SanDiegoMick, ShowingBunt, Singledigit, SpartanBoiler, SpartanHT, Starsailor, Thorpac, TigerTom, Tigerdog1, TomduhB, VandeFan, ahtrap, bobrob2004, dominator039, johnmoz, ndraugelis, rbbaker, rodallen, snizo, stevenyc, texastigerfan, xBlazingSaddles
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/8/29/4671542/game-134-as-at-tigers-1-08-p-mhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/8/29/4672904/game-134-overflow

TOP TEN COMMENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 texastigerfan 119
2 BadCompany22 49
3 TigerTom 47
4 stevenyc 46
5 SanDiegoMick 42
6 J_the_Man 39
7 Cabbylander 37
8 NCDee 37
9 bobrob2004 34
10 GVLaker09 33

TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
24 NCDee NEVER A DOUBT!!!
11 GWilson Signs are good
10 stevenyc WATCH IT FLY!!!
8 Keith-Allen Victory!
6 Tigerdog1 Done
5 Tigerdog1 ...
5 Rob Rogacki [no title]
3 GVLaker09 Balfour, Balfive, Balsix. Keep em coming
3 DJ Screw [no title]

GAME 133 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

For the second consecutive game, not a single Tiger was deemed worthy of the PotG. "Really? A PotG in a ten run loss?" carried 67% of the vote.

Tigers GIFS | On Twitter: @TigersGIFS

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