Tigers 6, Mariners 2: Shorthanded bullpen led by Al Alburquerque, Jose Alvarez lock down win; Don Kelly, Miguel Cabrera go deep

Gregory Shamus

Give credit where credit is due. With the bullpen shorthanded, clutch performances from Al Alburquerque and Jose Alvarez led the Tigers to victory. On offense, Miguel Cabrera and Don Kelly led the way, both homering.


Final - 9.17.2013 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Seattle Mariners 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 6 1
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 3 X 6 10 1
WP: Al Alburquerque (3 - 3)
LP: Yoervis Medina (4 - 6)

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The Detroit Tigers broke open a tight 1-1 game by scoring in each of their final three innings, pulling away late to knock off the Seattle Mariners 6-2. The Tigers' 88th victory equals their 2012 win total and lowers their Magic Number to six.

AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez was his normal excellent self. Despite allowing just two runs and six hits, striking out two in 6 1/3 innings, Sanchez was hung with a no-decision. Al Alburquerque (3-3) cleaned up after Sanchez left in the seventh, stranding a pair of runners in scoring position to earn the victory.

"Alvarez was brilliant, Alburquerque was just as good." -Jim Leyland, in praise of his very shorthanded bullpen

Rookie starter Brandon Maurer held the Tigers' bats at bay, giving up two runs and five hits in five innings of work. But it would be the second of five Mariners' pitchers, Yoervis Medina (4-6), who took the loss. Medina allowed one run in the seventh, the Tigers taking a lead they would not relinquish.

The Tigers were led on offense by Don Kelly, who homered and singled, driving in one and scoring twice. Miguel Cabrera hit his 44th homer, tying a career high, also scoring a run. Austin Jackson added two hits and two RBIs.

The Mariners needed a pair of extra base hits to plate their two runs. Raul Ibanez homered in the sixth, Kendry Morales driving in the second with a pinch-hit double in the seventh.

The Tigers won thanks to getting help from unexpected places -- the depths of their bullpen, and utility man Don Kelly. The normal relief stalwarts unavailable, a threadbare bullpen came through. Alburquerque and Jose Alvarez came up big, stranding runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings. And once the bats finally got going, the Tigers pulled away.

To the Mariners' credit, the 6-2 final score made the game look to be a far easier win than it was in reality.

Bottom of the first, we saw a rare thing from the Tigers -- a stolen base. Unfortunately, it didn't lead to a run.

Austin Jackson started the inning with a single off Brandon Maurer. He proceeded to steal second with one out. Yes, a God honest, for real stolen base. It was Jackson's eighth theft, leading a Tigers' team which has all of 33 steals overall.

Maurer pitched around Miguel Cabrera, walking him on five pitches, setting up an opportunity for Prince Fielder. He flew out to left. So there was a two-out opportunity for Victor Martinez. He flew out to right. Inning over.

Anibal Sanchez had excellent stuff early on, striking out three of the first five Mariners he faced. But Michael Saunders went the other way with a two-out, two-strike fastball, dropping a fly ball just past Don Kelly for a double into the left-field corner.

Out of nowhere Sanchez had to battle mightily to find the strike zone, walking the .216 hitting Mike Zunino on four pitches. Sanchez went to a full count on Nick Franklin, before inducing a lazy fly ball to left, stranding a pair.

Maurer has been awful this season, entering the game with a sky high 7.18 ERA. In his last appearance, Maurer was pulled after three innings, allowing five runs on seven hits. This is a pitcher the Tigers should destroy.  Yet the rookie right-hander was mowing down Tigers, holding them to one hit through three innings.

While the Tigers' offense was making Maurer look like a Cy Young contender, a true Cy Young candidate was striking out the side in the fourth. Sanchez had recorded seven whiffs thanks to some absolutely wicked stuff.

The fact the game was a pitchers' duel was facepalm worthy. But it would be Maurer who made a facepalm-worthy pitch to, of all people, Don Kelly. The count 2-1, Kelly got all of a low fastball, drilling it deep into the right-field stands. Donnie Baseball's sixth home run of the season broke the scoreless tie, the Tigers finally taking a 1-0 lead (MLB.com video).

The Don Bomb was a true "because, baseball" moment.

Given a lead and looking for a shutdown inning, a two-out paper cut instead put Sanchez in a jam.  Franklin lined a single to left, no damage done. But rookie shortstop Carlos Triunfel's bloop shot into short right field glanced off the glove of a lunging Omar Infante for a two-out, seeing-eye double.

'Twas just a minor scare. Sanchez retired Abraham Almonte on a ground ball to Jose Iglesias, stranding a pair of runners in scoring position.

Speaking of the Tigers' shortstop, Iglesias used his shin-splint-riddled legs to manufacture a scoring threat in the bottom of the fifth. Iglesias reached base on just the third Tigers' hit of the game, laying down a perfect bunt for a single. The hit-and-run on, Iglesias stole second as Austin Jackson was striking out. Zunino's throw to second sailed into center, allowing Iglesias to reach third.

But there would be no two-out RBI in this inning. A scuffling Torii Hunter (hitting .192/.208/.231 in September) bounced out, stranding Iglesias.

Sanchez had struck out nine and carried a shutout through 5 2/3 innings, but his pitch count was becoming an issue. So was Raul Ibanez. The 60-something (OK, he's 41) Ancient Mariner golfed an ankle-high slider over the scoreboard in right center. The solo shot was the 28th of the season for Ibanez, knotting the game at 1-all.

The game-tying homer reminded everyone what awful run support the Tigers had given Sanchez. Making it all the worse was the fact they were facing a pitcher who had been tossing glorified batting practice this season.

Sanchez likely had just one more inning left in him, his a pitch count of 102 through 5 1/2.

Then...

Leading off the bottom half of the sixth, the count 2-2, Cabrera crushed Maurer's 93 MPH fastball on the outside part of the plate, clearing the wall in right at the 365-foot mark. Cabrera's first home run since August 26 was his 44th of the season, allowing the Tigers to regain the lead at 2-1 (MLB.com video).

Fielder followed by singling to left, forcing Mariners' manager Eric Wedge to pull his rookie starter. Another rookie, right-hander Yoervis Medina, answered the bullpen phone.

Martinez made a bid, but his fly ball to right center fell short, caught on the warning track in front of the scoreboard. Funky Cold Medina ended the inning by striking out Infante. But the Tigers had retaken the lead, two solo homers to one.

Hoping to get one more inning out of his starter, Leyland did not issue the "Handshake of Doom." Sanchez was on the mound for the top of the seventh.

Trouble ensued.

Saunders greeted Sanchez by yanking a line drive into the right-field corner. But Hunter was playing him shaded well toward right center, which allowed Saunders to reach third without drawing a throw. Sanchez looking to be on ropes, he doubled down on the lead-off triple by walking Zunino.

Runners on the corners, Sanchez recorded a huge out by whiffing Franklin, his tenth K of the night. But that was the final out Sanchez could get. In need of a double play, instead Sanchez gave up a game-tying, pinch-hit RBI double to Kendrys Morales.

Two runners in scoring position and still just one out, that would be it for Sanchez. Leyland was limited in his bullpen options, Drew Smyly, Bruce Rondon, Joaquin Benoit all unavailable. Looking for the strikeout, he elected to roll the dice with Al Alburquerque. As it turned out, the skipper rolled a seven.

Alburquerque didn't get the K, but he did get the next best thing. Alburquerque induced a popup from Abraham Almonte for the second out. It was up to Franklin Gutierrez to come through with a two-out base knock. Now Alburquerque nailed down the strikeout he needed, stranding a pair when Gutierrez went down on a checked-swing strike three.

Medina was still on the mound for the Mariners in the bottom half of the inning. He proceeded to give the Tigers the same opportunity as his teammates had in the top of the inning, putting runners on the corners with no one out.

Alex Avila led off by ripping a liner into the right-center-field gap, rolling all the way to the warning track. Avila sensing triple all the way, chugged into third, managing to stay in one piece. Iglesias then took one for the team, plunked by Medina.

The infield in, Jackson sent a chopper to short. The contact play on, Avila was caught in a rundown, but stayed alive long enough to allow the runners to advance to second and third.

Runners in scoring position and less than two out, Hunter hit a liner to very shallow center. There's only a couple of Tigers who would risk tagging up on such a shallow fly. Luckily, one of them was on third in Iglesias. Shocking everyone (including yours truly), Iglesias easily scored as Almonte's throw was so far off line, the Mariners had no choice but to cut it off.

The Tigers back up 3-2, Wedge ordered Cabrera be given an intentional pass. He then called for the one usable piece the Mariners received in the ripoff of Doug Fister deal, lefty Charlie Furbush. Bringing some nasty breaking stuff, Furbush struck out Fielder to nip the rally in the bud at one run.

Up next?

Yes, Phil Coke was asked to pitch the eighth. Then again, three of the next four batters in the Mariners' lineup were left-handed.

Fielder made the defensive play of the game (Yes, Fielder!) to bail out Coke for the first out, laying out to grab Kyle Seager's smoked ground ball, making the play unassisted. But the ever dangerous old man, Ibanez worked a base on balls. There was a meeting of the minds between, Coke, the entire infield and pitching coach Jeff Jones before Justin Smoak stepped in the box.

Coke got exactly what he needed, a hard ground ball to Iglesias. But the Tigers' best defensive player shockingly booted what should have been an inning-ending double-play ball, everyone safe.

Facing another lefty in Saunders, Coke walked him on five pitches, loading the bases. The crowd cheering lustily, Leyland yanked Coke for another lefty, Jose Alvarez. He would have to face the right-handed-hitting Zunino.

"I liked the match up better." "I took my chances with the young kid." -Leyland on his reasoning for going with Alvarez in the eighth

Yes, there was plenty of blame to go around for the Mariners' threat. But no excuses for a LOOGY who walks a pair of left-handed hitters. None whatsoever.

Zunino worked a full count off Alvarez, then sent a slow roller to second.  When given a second chance to turn two, the Tigers' didn't screw it up. Infante's toss to Iglesias wasn't perfect, but the rookie shortstop made the turn and fired a rifle shot to first to nip Zunino by a half step.

Inning over, bases left loaded, bullet dodged.

Bottom of eight and the ex-Tiger still on the mound, Martinez started the inning by singling to center. Leyland didn't pinch hit for Don Kelly, and asked him to move pinch runner Hernan Perez over with a sacrifice. But Kelly fouled off his bunt attempts and was forced to swing away. With the count full, the Tigers pulled off the hit and run, Kelly placing his ground ball where second baseman Dustin Ackley had been stationed moments before. Perez raced to third on Kelly's single.

Wedge made another pitching change, right-hander Carter Capps replacing Furbush. Infante shrugged off the pitching change, greeting Capps with an RBI single to left. Perez crossed the plate with an important insurance run, the Tigers up 4-2.

Still no one out, Capps walked Avila to load the bases. Making a strange head-scratcher of a move, Leyland exchanged defense for offense, pinch hitting for Iglesias with Andy Dirks. The move backfired badly, Dirks striking out.

Before the fan base could get their anger juices really flowing, Jackson bailed out Leyland. He lined a single to center, driving in a pair to extend the Tigers' lead to a relatively safe 6-2.

Hunter bounced into a fielder's choice, putting runners on the corners for Cabrera. Capps bounced a pitch to the plate, bouncing far enough to allow Hunter to advance to second. Capps would just go and reload the bases, hitting Cabrera in the left hip.

The parade of rookie arms continued, Wedge replacing Capps with lefty Bobby LaFromboise. Fielder looked at a borderline 3-2 pitch, punched out to end the inning. But the Tigers had sent nine to the plate, scoring three big runs on four hits, enterting the ninth with a four-run advantage at 6-2.

The game no longer a save situation, Alvarez started the ninth instead of Jose Veras. But Veras was warming up, as you never know...

Alvarez retired the first two batters he faced, but Almonte worked a walk to keep the game alive. Leyland immediately called for the former Astros' closer out the pen.

Veras ended a long and occasionally frustrating game (3:46) by striking out Gutierrez.

GAME OVER. Your final score is Tigers 6, Mariners 2.

The Magic Number is six, the same as Mr. Tiger, legendary Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

The Tigers equal last year's win total with 11 games left to play. The win raises their record to 88-63 (.583), a half game behind the Athletics for the second-best record in the AL. Their lead in the Central holds steady at six games, thanks to the Indians' come-from-behind win over the Royals.

In game three of the Tigers' series with the Mariners, right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.87 ERA) takes on Justin Verlander (13-11, 3.66 ERA).

Meet your latest victim of a lack of run support. Iwakuma hasn't recorded a decision in his last four appearances despite a 2.10 ERA in 25 2/3 innings. Iwakuma was excellent in his last start, shutting out the Cardinals on three hits over seven innings. The Mariners wasted Iwakuma's performance, earning just a no-decision in a 2-1 defeat.

Verlander has won just once since August 6, 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA in his last seven starts. Worse, the Tigers have a 1-6 record in those games. Verlander did snap his winless streak in last start, giving up three runs in 6 2/3 innings in a victory over the Royals.

First pitch is set for 7:08 PM.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

It's been a good day for Jim Leyland.

I can hear him at the store now...

"Gimme two cartons of Marlboro reds, a bottle of Maalox, a right-hand hitting left fielder and a quart of prune juice! No, I wasn't kidding about the outfielder..."

Of course, Donnie Baseball gave the Tigers the lead in the fourth, homering just to spite Rogo.

As for balls which don't travel nearly as far, Jose Iglesias bunted for a single in the fifth inning, increasing his AL lead in infield hits over Ichiro Suzuki, 35-33.

Meanwhile in Houston, words fail me...

And in hysterical GIF form, via SBNation's Baseball Nation:

Villar-butt-phillips-butt_medium

Our own Rob, who was running the @SBNationMLB account tonight, stopped watching this game and started watching the GIF ... over and over and over.

THREE ROARS:

Anibal Sanchez: Victimized by a lack of run support, Sanchez was excellent until running out of gas in the seventh. But allowing two runs while striking out ten in 6 1/3 innings is nothing to sneeze at.

Al Alburquerque: Cleaned up after Sanchez in the seventh, stranding the lead runs on second and third on a popup and strikeout.

Jose Alvarez: Entered the game in the eighth inning, the bases loaded and the Tigers clinging to a one-run lead. Alvarez cleaned up a huge mess with an inning-ending double play.

BONUS ROAR:

Miguel Cabrera: Went yard for the first time in three weeks, reached base three times and scored a run.

Don Kelly: Donnie Baseball, aka Donnie Kelly Baby, homered to put the Tigers on the scoreboard in the fourth and his hit and run single triggered a three-run eighth-inning rally.

Austin Jackson: Bailed out Leyland with his two-out, two-RBI single in the three-run eighth.

ONE HISS:

Phil Coke: LOOGYs can't walk lefties. PERIOD.

ROLL CALL:

Roll Call Info
Total comments 1,265
Total commenters 40
Commenter list 42jeff, Alex Baker, Allison Hagen, AriTwice, AwesomeJackson, BadCompany22, DJ Screw, Designated for Assignment, JWurm, J_the_Man, Jacob30, Jim O'Dutchmen, Joaquin on Sunshine, Logan Davis, MSUDersh, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, NCDee, Nonsuch Ned, Rob Rogacki, SabreRoseTiger, SanDiegoMick, Scherzerblueeye, Singledigit, SpartanBoiler, SpartanHT, Tigerdog1, TomduhB, Trout Jefferson, Verlanderful, XFizzle, aelix, bobrob2004, dishnet34, frisbeepilot, josejose50, knucklescarbone, lithium, rbbaker, stevenyc, texastigerfan
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/9/17/4741536/game-151-mariners-at-tigers-7-08-p-m

TOP TEN COMMENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 SanDiegoMick 163
2 SabreRoseTiger 150
3 Scherzerblueeye 117
4 TomduhB 70
5 stevenyc 68
6 frisbeepilot 67
7 Singledigit 66
8 J_the_Man 60
9 SpartanHT 60
10 Joaquin on Sunshine 59

TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
5 BadCompany22 Emergency Victory Vark deployed
3 SabreRoseTiger Blech. Took me forever. Xanga completely changed their image server

GAME 150 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Rick Porcello helped sink the Mariners, taking the PotG poll with 91% of the vote. It was Kid Rick's second straight excellent start, allowing just one run and five hits, striking out ten in over six innings.

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