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6 Outs From a Sweep

Coming into a series against the red-hot Minnesota Twins seemed like a couple automatic losses for the Tigers, but somehow they persevered and found ways to win some games. Going up against the Twins in a 3 game set on the road was no easy task against a Minnesota club that had previously compiled the best home record (37-11 coming in) of any major league club, especially considering two of the pitching matchups the Tigers were going to have to face.

The Twins' two left-handed star pitchers, Fransisco Liriano and Johan Santana stood in the way of the Tigers as they attempted to continue a dominance over their AL-Central rival this season. This left many Tigers fans hoping to take just 1 out of the 3 with all of the factors considered.

Liriano was everything the Tigers have heard about this season, as he was nearly unhittable for a lineup that is known to hack and be impatient at the plate. The key to getting to Liriano is to jump on him early, something that no team had done previously this season. Liriano was yet to give up an earned run in the first inning of any game until Magglio Ordonez smacked a two run double. The two runs turned out to be just enough to keep the Twins in check. Liriano struck out 12 in the game over 8 innings (only giving up 3 hits in the process), but in the end it was the Tigers who were victorious in extra innings due to a great outing from a fellow rookie pitcher, Zach Miner. The bullpen for the Tigers also pitched in with some great innings, and held down the Twins lineup just enough to squeak out a win in extras.

Following a sandwich game win over the Twins and Brad Radke 8-6 on Saturday night, the Tigers faced another tall task today against Johan Santana. Jeremy Bonderman faced Santana on the hill today, and for 7 innings looked absolutely brilliant. Following a two-base error given up to Luis Castillo in the first, Bonderman proceeded to only give up 1 hit over the next 7 innings, as the Tigers lineup was able to put up 3 runs on the board against the former Cy Young winner.

Though he was cruising through the first 2/3 of the game, Bonderman and the Tigers hit a wall in the bottom of the 8th inning, and hit it hard. Following mental lapses in the form of a couple errors, a missed tag and a balk, the Tigers found themselves down 6-3 at the end of the inning, an inning that Bonderman and the Tigers would rather soon forget. The team went from being 6 outs from a sweep of the red-hot Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome, only to see it fade away in a very rough fashion.

While many fans will look at this with extreme disappointment, as many should, I still believe that this game could turn out to be a positive when you look at this from an entire series standpoint. The Tigers faced tough odds coming in, and overcame them for the most part. A team that has had as much success as the Tigers have had this year need a wake up call every now and then, and sometimes it comes in the form of an extremely bad outing or a group of mental mistakes that cost them close ones. In this case the Tigers had one bad inning, an inning full of mental mistakes here and there, and this one bad inning could make them even hungrier. To be that close to a sweep only to watch it vanish could ultimately help this team in the end.

Jim Leyland showed confidence in Jeremy Bonderman through a rough 8th inning, something that could help in the end. The Tigers hitters left several men on base, another thing that could turn out making them improve getting runners home in key situations. And in the end their heads just didn't prove to be in it, something that they should try hard to not allow in future games. Overall these mistakes along with some generous Metrodome bounces made for a bad day, but hopefully one in which we can find positives in.

Some other notes along the way:

  • Brent Clevlen had a great first MLB game, starting out in the first inning when he gunned down Luis Castillo attempting to score on a sac fly. Brent followed this up with a double, single, BB and 2 runs scored. Some have written that this was an audition to show other teams that Brent was major league ready, but I feel that his callup was due to the fact that Gomez needed a few more days to become eligible for a recall to the majors.
  • I'm not holding my breath for any trades. I think that this team is standing pat considering everything that has been written over the last few days. I'm fine with, even though I think a few tweaks still need to be made. Nothing major, as we've been winning with the current team just fine.
  • Vance Wilson played very well this series filling in for Pudge, who had a sore thumb. I think we have a pretty solid backup catcher on this team. He's turned out to be one of my favorites, and I think that he's generally well liked by Tigers fans.
  • I'm hoping that this extended time on turf will be alright on Carlos Guillen's and Magglio's knees. They have an upcoming series in Tampa at Tropicana Field, and I know that too much running around on the artificial stuff can lead to aches and pains. We need those guys healthy, as they have been a major part of the team's success this season. Perhaps we'll see a lot of cycling through our OF's the next series.
On to Tampa Bay. Let's hope the Tigers take some momentum into this series knowing that they stood up pretty darn well to the Minnesota test.

(Photo courtesy of the AP)