The Detroit Tigers moved closer to clinching a playoff berth, scoring twice in the seventh to beat the Seattle Mariners in come-from-behind fashion, 5-4. The victory lowered the Tigers' Magic Number to four.
The Tigers did have a major injury scare, which nearly took the shine off the win. Flashy rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias was hit in the left hand by a Tom Wilhelmsen fastball, forced to leave the game in considerable pain. X-rays turned out negative, the Tigers listing Iglesias as day-to-day with a hand contusion.
Doug Fister (13-9) pitched into the eighth to win his 13th game of the season. The ex-Mariner hold his former team to four runs, scattering nine hits in 7 2/3 innings. Joaquin Benoit pitched the ninth, recording his 23rd save in as many opportunities.
Making his third career big league start, James Paxton allowed three runs and five hits, walking four in five innings of work for the Mariners. Reliever Charlie Furbush (2-6) would be tagged with the loss, allowing three hits along with the game winning run in the seventh inning.
The Tigers and Mariners both had nine hits on the afternoon. But the Tigers bunched theirs in the middle of the order, two through six in the lineup accounting for all nine base hits. Prince Fielder led the way with three hits, an RBI and two runs scored. Victor Martinez had two hits and two RBIs, including the game winner. Torii Hunter added a first inning home run, Omar Infante chipping in with an RBI single.
The Mariners didn't go down without a fight, but the Tigers did what they needed to do. In taking three of the four games, they have an opportunity to clinch the division (if they get a little help from the Astros) this weekend. I don't care about style points, or how the Tigers get to the playoffs, just as long as they get there. They took care of business and are one game closer to their playoff grail with today's come-from-behind win.
Doug Fister got off to a fast start, pounding the strike zone while retiring the first two Mariners he faced. The Mariners then woke up (being the game started at 10 AM pacific), stringing together three straight singles by Kyle Seager, Kendrys Morales and the 2000 year old man, Raul Ibanez, to take a 1-0 advantage.
Facing Mariners' starter James Paxton for the first time, the Tigers teed off on the rookie lefty. After one was out, Torii Hunter rudely greeted Paxton by clubbing a chest-high mid-90s fastball over the left field fence. Huinter's solo shot was his 17th home run of the season, quickly knotting the game up at 1-all (MLB.com video).
But the rally didn't end there.
Prince Fielder on first after bouncing into a fielder's choice, Victor Martinez jumped all over Paxton's 1-0 fastball. Ibanez played Martinez's line drive like a 41 year old DH playing out of position,the ball caroming off his glove, bouncing off the top half of the left field wall. By the time the 2000 year old man retrieved his misplay (officially scored an RBI double), Fielder had rumbled all the way around the diamond to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
Bottom of three, Cabrera's injury wracked body didn't keep him from circling the bases, albeit slowly, to help increase the Tigers' lead.
Two down, Cabrera drilled a liner into the left field corner, but could only jog to first base. Fielder followed with a gapper to left center, rolling all the way to the wall for a double. A healthy Cabrera scores. This Cabrera could only lumber to third, giving the Tigers a pair of runners in scoring position for Martinez.
The Mariners wanted nothing to do with Martinez, issuing an intentional walk, preferring Paxton face Omar Infante. The move backfired, thanks to Infante having enough discipline to not take the bat off his shoulder. Paxton fired four consecutive balls out of the strike zone, Infante earning an easy RBI.
The hitless for September Matt Tuiasosopo failed to come through for a second straight game when given a bases loaded opportunity, bouncing out to end the threat. Yet the Tigers' two out rally yielded a run, increasing their lead to 3-1.
By the top of the fourth, Fister was in a groove. striking out the side. By the top of the fifth, Fister was in trouble, giving up the lead.
The Mariners started the inning with three straight hits, the third being a killer. The number eight and nine batters in the order, .216 hitting Mike Zunino and .111 hitting Carlos Triunfel, reached base on back-to-back singles (seeing eye though they may have been). Fister than made a huge, huge mistake. Dustin Ackley, entering the day with just three home runs on the season, crushed a 2-0 change up over the fat part of the plate, clearing the wall in right for a three run homer. The Earl Weaver Special was the fourth big fly of the season for Ackley, the Mariners re-taking the lead at 4-3.
Fister would stay out of further trouble, recording strikeouts seven and eight while ending a frustrating inning.
Time for the TTBDNS portion of the recap. Two down in the bottom half of the fifth, Fielder doubled into the left field corner. Once again, Mariners' manager Eric Wedge wanted nothing to do with Martinez, refusing to let one of baseball's hottest hitters beat him. The Mariners filled up an empty first base, Martinez earning his second intentional walk of the day.
This time around, the free pass worked. Paxton got out of the jam when Infante flew out to center.
Top of six, Fister was back to sinking Mariners, recording his ninth and tenth whiffs in a 1-2-3 inning.
Bottom half of the inning, the Tigers put a runner in scoring position, but paid a price to do so. The Mariners had replaced Paxton with Tom Wilhelmsen, who was battling with his command. The right-hander walked Ramon Santiago with one out.
Jose Iglesias reached base as well, but in the worst way possible. Wilhelmsen's 95 MPH fastball sailed in on the Tigers' rookie shortstop, catching him flush on the left hand. Iglesias stumbled toward the dugout and collapsing in a heap, curled up in severe pain.
@blessyouboys Suddenly the 'welcome back Peralta' bandwagon grows.— Anthony Lewis (@anthonyslewis) September 19, 2013
Even the guys at Lookout Landing were apologetic.
Sorry @blessyouboys— Scott Weber (@LookoutLanding) September 19, 2013
Iglesias left the game, Don Kelly replacing him as a pinch runner. The Tigers were unable to capitalize on the walk and brutal hit by pitch. Kyle Seager made a nice grab of Jackson's ground ball to start a 5-4-3 double play. Not only did the Tigers lose their shortstop, they couldn't come through with a runner in scoring position and less than two out.
With Iglesias out, positional maneuvering ensued. Kelly took over at third as Santiago slid over to short. Andy Dirks entered the game as the new left fielder. Back in dominant form, Fister shut down the Mariners in a 1-2-3 inning.
Bottom of seven and still down by a run, Hunter led off by doubling to left center. Wilhelmsen got away with a fat pitch, Cabrera nearly taking him out to right field. The fly ball to deep right died on the warning track, Hunter moving to third on the sacrifice fly.
Wedge had seen enough, pulling Wilhelmsen. He wanted ex-Tiger Charlie Furbush to face Fielder. In their previous meeting earlier in the series, Furbush easily struck out Fielder. The big man won the return match, looping an RBI single to left center, Hunter crossing the plate to knot the game at 4-all.
After walking Wedge elected to have Furbush pitch to Martinez. He should have walked him a third time. The veteran switch-hitter yanked a liner into the left field corner. Tom Brookens took a chance, windmilling Fielder around, narrowly beating the tag in spite of the throw beating him to the plate (MLB.com video).
Or did Fielder beat the tag?
Regardless, the call stood and the Tigers had regained the lead at 5-4.
Top of eight, more defensive maneuvering ensued, Alex Avila entering the game to catch, in place of Martinez. Fister retired the first two Mariners he faced in the inning, before pitching around one of last night's heroes, Justin Smoak. Fister's pitch count at 108, Jim Leyland elected to bring on lefty Drew Smyly to pitch to Nick Franklin.
It was no problem for Smyly, recording the Tigers' 11th strikeout to end the inning.
As the game reached the top of the ninth, the Tigers still clung to their 5-4 lead. Joaquin Benoit was on the mound looking to record his 22nd save.
There was no drama whatsoever. Benoit slammed the door on the Mariners, retiring the side in order, ending the game with the Tigers' 12th strikeout.
Your final score is Tigers 5, Mariners 4. The Magic Number falls to four with nine games left to play.
Yes, the Tigers won. But it could have been at a horrible cost. I think this tweet speaks for most everyone.
Thank God Iglesias is only day-to-day. Let's just play with the Mud Hens for the rest of the season. That was terrifying.— James Nahikian (@KingNahikian) September 19, 2013
The Tigers take 3-of-4 from the Mariners, are 5-of-7 on the current home stand and 7-of-10 overall, raising their record to 89-64 (.582). The Tigers' lead in the Central is upped to 6 1/2 games, the second place Indians playing tonight. But the scoreboard to watch is that of the Athletics. The race for the AL's second best record and ALDS home field is what now matters. The Tigers are 1/2 game back of the 89-63 (.586) A's, who play at home against the Twins with a first pitch pushing the envelope of most of our bedtimes.
Up next is the final series of the home stand. It's also the last three regular season games to played at Comerica Park in 2013. The Tigers welcome the last place White Sox, who will have right-hander Andre Rienzo (2-2, 5.04 ERA) take on Max Scherzer (19-3, 2.95 ERA).
Rienzo is auditioning for the 2014 rotation and got off on the right foot. After making his MLB debut on July 30, Rienzo was 1-0 with a 3.56 ERA in his first five appearances. But in his last four games Rienzo looks to have hit the rookie wall, posting a 1-2 record and 7.32 ERA, allowing five earned runs in three of those starts.
Scherzer is making his fifth attempt at cracking the 20 win barrier. In his last four starts, Scherzer is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA. Despite earning a no-decision in his last appearance, Scherzer showed he was back on track, giving up just one run on five hits over seven innings to the Royals.
Friday night's first pitch is scheduled for 7:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
In the second inning, Doug Fister was caught on camera touching Alex Avia's 1 o'clock shadow. My guess? Fister was using Avila's mighty facial hair as sandpaper, filing the nails on his pitching hand.
Meanwhile, on the radio broadcast, Jim Price was so impressed by Fister striking out the side in the fourth, he started singing...
♫ ♫ "Yellll-oooow haaammm-errrr!" ♫ ♫
Fister struck out the Ancient Mariner, Raul Ibanez, to end the fifth inning. It was the 1,319th K of the season, breaking the Tigers' franchise record, set last season.
Top of five, Prince Fielder got hungry.
PRINCE STOLE A NACHO!!!— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) September 19, 2013
Unfortunately, Fister proceeded to serve up a three run homer.
Welp that went from fun to sad fast— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) September 19, 2013
Bottom of the sixth, Jose Iglesias got smoked by a fastball, catching him square on the left hand. PANIC ensued, along with everyone realizing Jhonny Peralta would be returning soon.
@blessyouboys Suddenly the 'welcome back Peralta' bandwagon grows.— Anthony Lewis (@anthonyslewis) September 19, 2013
The fan base held their breath, expecting the worst. Even though the pitch appeared to do significant damage, Iglesias' injury turned out to be relatively minor.
WHEW. Jose Iglesias is only day-to-day with a contusion after being hit on his hand. http://t.co/u5ATs8yuCf— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) September 19, 2013
Doug Fister: Every win increases his career high, now at 13. Fister was solid against his former team, though a pair of three batter stretches in the first and fifth innings almost ruined what otherwise was a very solid outing.
Prince Fielder: His late season surge continues with a 3-for-4 afternoon, driving in one run and scoring the game winner in the seventh.
Victor Martinez: Every time the Mariners elected to pitch to Martinez, he hurt them in a big, big way. The veteran DH received a rare start at catcher and raised his average to .301. Martinez reached base four times in a 2-for-2, two RBI day, driving home the game winning run.
Torii Hunter: Homered, two hits.
Joaquin Benoit: Drama free ninth innings are a pleasure.
Injuries: If anything can derail the Tigers, it's the injury bug. They dodged a major one when Jose Iglesia' hand injury turned out to be a bruise, not a break.
Matt Tuiasosopo: His awful second half gets worse, hitless in two at bats. Tuiasosopo hasn't had a hit in three weeks, but has rarely played, unable to get back on track. But when he does get an opportunity, Tuiasosopo doesn't hit. And the circle of fail starts all over again.
Andy Dirks: The left-handed side of the left field platoon is slumping again, coming into today's action hitting a very meh .279/.295/.372 in September. Dirks was unable to neck out a hit after entering the game as a pinch hitter, going 0-for-2. The Jhonny Peralta to left field experiment becomes more interesting (and tempting) by the day.
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If you had to pick someone, about the only Tiger worth mentioning is Justin Verlander. But as for last night's question of who makes the post season roster out of the bullpen? Al Alburquerque topped Luke Putkonen, 34% to 33%.