DETROIT--It was Jim Leyland Day at a sold out Comerica Park on Saturday and despite his best efforts, the former Tigers manager didn't last more than 10 seconds before turning on the water works in his "thank you" speech to the Tigers and fans.
While many would have hoped that Don Kelly would catch Leyland's ceremonial first pitch, it was Gene Lamont who would get that honor. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch made a rare appearance and was present for the game. And to put the icing on the cake, Joe West was the home plate umpire to mess with everyone's day. It would not have been complete without him.
Don Kelly got the start in left field on Jim Leyland Day and started dishing out good deeds for the Tigers early on. He made a spectacular catch at the left field bullpen wall to rob the Minnesota Twins of what was almost surely a home run in the first inning.
Kelly then hit a double in the second inning and later scored his own run in that inning when Alex Avila hit a single to center field. Adding on, Kelly would hit a leadoff single in the sixth inning which raised his average to .367 which currently leads the team.
Alex Avila continued to make contact when he rifled an RBI single past the pitcher's outstretched glove and into center field during the second inning. Andrew Romine got his first hit since May 4 and drove in a run in a run immediately following Avila's at-bat which put the Tigers ahead 3-0.
Miguel Cabrera has been heating up and Saturday he shut down any remaining talks of slumping when he sent a three-run bomb the opposite way. While his swing isn't completely back in shape, his power has begun to return with higher frequency.
The three-run homer was his fifth of the season and in the last five games, Cabrera was listed as hitting .368 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Since April 22 Cabrera has driven in 21 RBI which is the most in the majors during that time period. Cabrera's home run on Saturday also tied him with Gil Hodges on the all-time home run list at 370.
Victor Martinez proved yet again why he should remain with the Tigers and he made his case look even stronger, impressing in front of Mr. Ilitch when he hit a three-run smoked home run deep into the right field seats. The home run came on a 1-0 pitch after Torii Hunter singled and Cabrera was hit on the hand by a pitch thrown by relief pitcher Michael Tonkin.
During the seventh inning stretch, Piano Man by Billy Joel played on the overhead speakers and Jim Leyland rightfully received another standing ovation when the cameras focused on the former third-winningest manager in Tigers franchise history.
Max Scherzer had some struggles with his pitch count but he kept the damage to a minimum, allowing only the three-run home run by Brian Dozier in the third inning. In six innings he allowed five hits, three earned runs, a wild pitch and he walked four while striking out six. Of the 116 pitches he threw, 63 percent of those were for strikes.
Joba Chamberlain was the picture of dominance. He allowed only one hit and struck out two batters, both of which went down swinging. Chamberlain's ERA now stands at 1.61 in 11 ⅔ innings pitched and he has allowed only two earned runs while recording 16 strikeouts.
Phil Coke allowed a leadoff hit in the ninth inning but a double play thanks to the quick glove work of Cabrera and Romine and a flyout to Hunter ended the game in overwhelming favor of the Tigers and Leyland was properly honored.