Watching Joba implode from Torii's Corner

Duane Burleson

HookSlide's first trip of 2014 to Comerica Park ends with a frown, but with a few highlights as well.

Well, it was certainly a game, wasn't it? Not exactly the greatest way to kick off my summer of trips to Comerica, but not necessarily the worst, either. If you'll recall, my inaugural visit to Comerica Park in 2013 was the day the Orioles rocked the Tigers for 13 runs, four of them coming off Jose Valverde in his last ever appearance as a Tiger. But that was also my first ever trip to Comerica with my son, so the special memories easily outweigh the ugly nature of that particular game.

This time, I made the weekend getaway with my wife. Her last game at Comerica was over the 2013 Labor Day weekend, when neither the Tigers nor the Indians scored any runs (YAAAAWWWWN) until Joaquin Benoit gave up a grand slam in the ninth inning. Not exactly a great game to watch.

From that standpoint, it was nice to see the Tigers score some runs this time around. I still have not succeeded in my quest to witness my first-ever-in-my-life Miggy home run, live and in person, but he did rip a nice double down the right field line -- and since we were in the right-field seats just below the Pepsi Porch overhang, we got a great view of that particular piece of excitement.

If I have to watch the Tigers lose, after having invested time and money for the privilege, I guess this is the kind of game I'd choose (as opposed to watching no one score for nine innings, or watching the opposing team take batting practice against the Tigers all day long). It was close, it was intense, there plenty of exciting moments, and plenty of reasons to cheer.

Also, I think I've definitely fallen in baseball-love with Eugenio Suarez. Don't tell anyone that, though, OK?

Strangely enough, the highlight of the game was watching Phil Coke. My wife had apparently never seen the patented "Coke sprint" -- perhaps we just don't watch enough games on television. But I forewarned her that it was coming, and when the bullpen gate opened, I said, "watch this," and we both waited with great anticipation. Coke did not disappoint, and we laughed our fool heads off as he suddenly broke into an all-out dash across the outfield grass.

And you know, he actually did a passable job from the mound. Things got a little tense in the eighth inning, but the fans in right field who had previously let loose with a chorus of "boo's" when Coke entered the game were on their feet, chanting "COKE! COKE! COKE!" as he faced Jackie Bradley, Jr. in a 3-2 count with two outs and the tying run on third base. When he got the swinging strikeout, the fans in "Torii's Corner" erupted, and it was nice to see Coke amped up and drunk on his success -- happy memories of the 2012 postseason.

Of course, the game ended on a downer. David Ortiz's three-run blast in the top of the ninth inning landed maybe 10 rows and to the right of where we were sitting. It was a surreal moment, and I wish I had the words to do it justice. You see the ball leave the bat and rocket into the sky just fractions of a second before you hear the sound, that sickening crack of wood against cork-and-leather that just screams, "he got all of that one." You watch that little white orb hurtling against the black night sky, and somewhere in there, the brain makes the definitive pronouncement: "this ball is not staying in the yard - in fact, this ball might land in your lap."

Ugh.

And for a brief moment, that ball is as clear and "high-def" as anything you've seen -- glistening white with the glow of the stadium lights, and far, far too close for comfort. Rows upon rows of fans hold their hands up, some in anticipation of catching the ball, but most in an act of defiance, as if throwing up an invisible force-field and willing the ball to fall short of the fence and stay in play. Unfortunately, physics and magic are at odds. The ball landed in the midst of our collective right field group, and we all slumped back into our seats to process what had just happened, and what it all meant. That's it. Ninth inning. How many men were on base? Crap. Now it's 5-3? How did this just happen? Did we dream it?

Et tu, Joba?

I saw the replay on television, and I can confirm: television shaves off at least 80 percent of the trauma of witnessing it in person, of watching that ball get way too close to your own personal space.

On the bright side, I got to see Koji Uehara pitch. I wasn't expecting to get to see that. Yes, he's an annoyance and a pain if he's pitching against your team, but objectively speaking, he is poetry in motion, and I have admired him from a distance since he appeared out of nowhere last year as one of the most dominant closers I've ever witnessed. So I'll add that to my list of highlights, somewhere a few slots above witnessing Jose Valverde's last game.

So now it's off to look at the schedule and see if I can find a game in the fall that I can attend with my wife -- we've been to three games together, and she has yet to see the Tigers win. She's beginning to suspect it's a trick of the television cameras.

Me? I know the Tigers win, sometimes even when I'm there at the park. They're just that good.

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