Last week, Sean Casey was intentionally walked twice by Texas pitchers so they could pitch to Craig Monroe instead. And instead of making that decision backfire, C-Mendo popped up each time, bailing the Rangers out.
Last night, the Red Sox tried a similar strategy in the fifth inning. Except this time, Marcus Thames was batting behind Casey. You can see what Boston was thinking: pitch to the right-handed hitter who's batting under .250. But Thames isn't struggling like Monroe has been. In fact, he's been swinging a relatively hot stick since Jim Leyland decided to give him more playing time.
And once again, Thames rewarded Leyland and his teammates for those additional at-bats by taking Julian Tavarez deep to left field for a grand slam. Tavarez was knocked out, and Detroit had another high-scoring win against an important American League rival.
Thames had five RBI on the night, and has a hit in his last five games. The fans asked for a curtain call, and Thames (somewhat reluctantly) stepped out of the dugout and acknowledged their cheers. Also cheering was the man whose position Thames has taken (perhaps permanently). At least C-Mo isn't sulking. Even he recognizes a good thing when he sees it.
The Kid Is All Right
But we've seen the Tigers run out to big leads too many times this season, only to see the bullpen crumble, give those runs right back, and more often than not, give away the game, too. Not last night, though. The eight-run lead stood up, largely because Andrew Miller pitched the best game of his young major league career.
Maybe the Red Sox batting order had a bit less ammunition in it with David Ortiz taking the night off and Kevin Youkilis nursing a sore quadriceps. But Boston's impressive depth has carried them throughout the season, and still allowed them to field a formidable lineup. Yet Miller not only didn't flinch, he mowed those guys down. Boston only managed one run and three hits in Miller's seven innings. (And the one time the Red Sox mounted a threat in the third, Curtis Granderson made a great play, throwing out Wily Mo Pena at home plate.)
This wasn't going to be a night where we gnawed off our fingernails hoping that the middle relievers could hold onto the lead. And when Miller tired out, Chad Durbin - who's been just as good in relief as he was in the rotation - finished the game off.
That Kid Is All Right, Too
And welcome back to the majors, Ryan Raburn. The newest Tiger pinch-hit for Magglio Ordonez in the eighth inning and smacked a single to left field that scored Placido Polanco. It was one of those nights when everything went right, and when that happens, the Tigers look unbeatable.