How long had it been since we watched the Detroit Tigers really flex their muscles and score some runs? How long had it been since falling behind didn't automatically mean the Tigers would lose the game? Where was the aggression? Where was the passion? Where was the desire to win?
For one night (and hopefully many more to come), it all came back. And so did the Tigers in this game. Twice, actually. Oh, baby - how good did that feel?
Are you familiar with the Marvel Comics version of The Mighty Thor? (And yes, I'm quite aware of how geeky this blog has been today, using two images of Marvel superheroes.) To teach him humility, the Thunder God's father banished him to Earth, giving him the body of not just a mortal man, but a disabled one who required a cane to walk. That has been the Tigers' offense this season, most especially over the past two games.
Humbled by his condition, everything changes when the mortal man is confronted by an adverse situation in which he truly needs his power. At that point, Dr. Donald Blake strikes his cane against a surface. The cane becomes the hammer Mjolnir (which I still can't pronounce, some 25 years after reading those comic books), and the crippled man becomes The Mighty Thor, God of Thunder.
The Tigers underwent a similar transformation tonight against the Minnesota Twins. But you're excused if you missed it. Most of this game looked like another exercise in total frustration. Detroit errors led to Minnesota runs. And once again, the Tigers' lineup wasn't scoring any of their own. But with the score 5-0, something happened. Batters started to string together consecutive hits, moving runners around the bases. And then finally, the 24-inning run drought was over. The Tigers scored a run! Then they scored two more! And another (though Carlos Guillen's limp around third base almost didn't let it happen).
After giving their fans hope with the comeback, however, the Tigers had the kind of inning that could make you want to kick a small animal. Jeremy Bonderman gave up two hits and was taken out of the game. Then Bobby Seay - who had been Detroit's best reliever to this point - came in and had the sort of meltdown we've become painfully familiar with. After walking his first batter, Seay gave up three straight hits which brought in four more Minnesota runs. Once again, Leyland left another reliever out there to hang. The score was 9-4, and you were more than justified in disgustedly turning your TV off or switching over to the Red Wings game.
If you did, however, you missed something good. You missed a Pudge line drive bounce off Denard Span's glove for a home run. And an inning later, you missed the Tigers' lineup become a buzzsaw again, slamming a barrage of extra base hits all over the field. Doubles and triples, oh my! Rockets to right and center field. Aggressive baserunning! Huzzah! Almost every starter got a hit tonight, and the one that didn't - Jacque Jones - was robbed on a great running catch by Delmon Young.
Perhaps most impressive was that the chalk outline left on the pitching mound after the explosion was that of Pat Neshek, who had a 2.35 ERA against Detroit (with 20 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings). Once the damage was done, the Tigers actually had a lead to give to their closer. Todd Jones kept it typically interesting by putting two runners on base, but ultimately got that third out.
What a double-fisted comeback. Is this the sort of rally that can turn a struggling team around? A lot of us will say so and hope so. The Tigers still committed many of the same blunders that have left them with the worst record in baseball. But for one night, at least, their offense overcame all of it. And that's what we've been waiting go see.