Mike McClary beat me to it, but I basically had the same sentiment for last night's 5-4 Tigers victory: Welcome back, Brandon Inge. Kind of late with the bat there, buddy, but thanks for joining the rest of the team, anyway.
And I really liked how Jim Leyland and his staff utilized Joel Zumaya last night by presenting him with a save opportunity. Sure, it was a longer situation than a closer might typically face, but going two innings fell within the occasional demands of his current role as a middle reliever. And it also gave him a little bit of a safety net in which he could afford to give up a couple of runs. Zumaya made the decision look particularly good when he fired his first Nuke Laloosh-style over Mike Rabelo's head to the backstop. But after taking some deep breaths and amping it down, the young man earned himself a save.
(And isn't Zumaya's curveball looking wicked? You can almost feel batters wincing in fear all across the American League.)
For the view from the opposing clubhouse, here's Bluebird Banter's account of the game. I'm really enjoying Hugo's regular "Waxing/Waning Gibbons" feature. (Currently "Waning" after batting our old friend Matt Stairs second against the left-handed Mike Maroth last night.) And his "Clayton Watch" could be worth keeping an eye on too, if you'd like to imagine what it might be like if Neifi was Detroit's starting shortstop. (I apologize for sending that chill down the collective spine of Tigers fans.)
The Tigers are following an interesting pattern as this week rolls toward an end. Wednesday night, Craig Monroe sent his season-opening struggles over the left centerfield fence in Camden Yards. Inge's home run last night might not have been as dramatic in that it didn't occur in the late innings, but in terms of busting a slump, it could be just as important. (And not just because it allowed Sam-Sam to break out a superheroic image of her beloved Tigers third baseman.)
So if the Tigers are going to continue this trend, perhaps we can expect Gary Sheffield to have a big game tonight. Watch out, Halladay...
Speaking of which, tonight's pitching match-up is a rematch of the Opening Day clash of aces. Bonderman was roughed up a bit by the Jays early in that first start, but fought hard to give his team a chance to tie the score. And though they eventually lost the game, the Tigers batters felt pretty good about managing some runs against a Cy Young Award caliber pitcher.
Something that comes with being the #1 starter is having to face the other team's best guy, so I think it's good to see Bondo face that kind of test this early in the season (though Jim Leyland's starting rotation shuffle last week has something to do with him going tonight). Halladay's been kind of a big deal in his career against Detroit with a 10-2 record, 1.93 ERA, and 0.93 (!!) WHIP. Of course, he had some bad baseball teams to feast upon previously. Of course, things are a bit different now. Consider that Pudge Rodriguez has a .476 average (10-for-21) against Halladay.
And Bonderman hasn't exactly wilted when facing Toronto, either. In about half as many starts, he's gone 6-2 with a 3.46 ERA. (Four of those appearances have been at Rogers Centre, where he has a 1-1 record, 3.86 ERA, and just over five strikeouts a game.)
What I'm trying to say is that this should be a good one.
EDIT: The Detroit Tigers Weblog has a fascinating post on Zumaya's outing, with Billfer inputting MLB.com's enhanced pitch data into charts that show just how consistent he was.