After clinching the AL East, there just wasn't much importance on tonight's result for the Tampa Bay Rays. These last couple of games are the equivalent of that fourth NFL preseason exhibition. Starters sit. (DRaysBay called tonight's lineup the "Tampa Bulls." Triple-A-rrific!)
Having said all that, three straight wins over a playoff team isn't a bad way to go. And though it certainly doesn't wash out the taste of a disappointing season, showing some pride for the final homestand of the season is at least respectful to the fans attending these games.
Miguel Cabrera took the American League lead in home runs with his solo shot in the second inning. That gives him 37, which pushes him past Carlos Quentin.
- Unfortunately, the guy that most of the crowd wanted to see hit a home run tonight couldn't punch one out. Gary Sheffield went 0-for-2 with a walk, but certainly seemed to be trying for his 500th homer with most every swing. (I know - he always swings hard.) With all of the family Sheff flew up to Detroit (and stuffed into a Comerica Park suite), maybe he can give them something to celebrate tomorrow.
- In his post-game chat with the media, Jim Leyland revealed that he'll bat Sheffield second in the lineup tomorrow. With Placido Polanco set to miss tomorrow with his sprained ankle, Leyland liking some power in the #2 hole, Sheff should get one or two extra at-bats to go for #500.
- Dontrelle Willis started off looking like he was going to throw another firebomb, giving up two runs in the first inning. But in his remaining 4 1/3 innings, the D-Train only allowed one more run and two additional hits. And perhaps most importantly, Willis only walked three batters while striking out five. Not a bad way to close out his season.
- Brandon Inge was at catcher for the first time in 12 days tonight. Having to corral the D-Train in his first game back was a nice "How do ya do?" from his manager, don't you think? Of course, Inge had a passed ball.
Leyland also got pretty misty at the end of his post-game interview on FSN Detroit, talking about how enthusiastic the fans were tonight ("it was almost like a playoff atmosphere in the ninth inning"), despite the team's poor showing this season.
"The fans put on one of their best performances tonight," Leyland said, while choking up.