It's so close. So very close. Tiger Town is leaning on the dugout rail in anticipation, ready to jump over it and take the field. And if the Detroit Tigers win one more time, we're going to celebrate.
Right now, all things seem possible. Heck, if the Tigers can beat Carl Pavano, what can't they do?
Pavano's mastery over the Tigers lineup was one of the most baffling aspects of this 2009 season. In five starts against Detroit, he had a 4-0 record and 1.69 ERA. Yet overall, he had a 4.86 ERA coming into Wednesday's game. So the Tigers were probably due to finally get to this guy, right?
Oh, they got to Pavano, all right. And did so early, pouncing on him in the second inning with four runs. The Tigers led off with on two singles and a walk. With the bases loaded and no outs, this would either be a chance to finally lay a smackdown on Pavano or commit an epic squandering. There was no squandering. Brandon Inge stroked a two-run double to left-center. Two batters later, Ramon Santiago singled to drive in two more runs.
But the Tigers weren't done with Pavano at that point. They had five games worth of frustration to take out on the guy. In the fifth inning, Detroit again loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. This time, however, there were two outs, so the squandering would not have been epic. But Magglio Ordonez made sure that didn't happen.
Ordonez jumped on a first-pitch fastball up in the strike zone, lacing into a wide-open gap in left-center field to clear the bases. (As I wrote for one of our overflow gamethreads, is there any more beautiful sight than a ball into the gap with nothing but green surrounding it?) That gave the Tigers seven runs, as many as Pavano had allowed altogether in his previous five starts versus Detroit.
The primary beneficiary of all that offense was Eddie Bonine, who could've used at least three of those runs last Friday in Chicago, but was surely happy with what he received Wednesday night.
Bonine provided a huge scare in the first inning, however, putting five straight Minnesota batters on base. With two runs already in, the Twins had the bases loaded with one out. Imminent disaster? Not this time. Jose Morales hit a groundball to second, which Placido Polanco and Santiago turned for a huge double play. That might have been the ballgame right there, as the Tigers took control soon thereafter.
So very close now. The Tigers' magic number is two. Can they push this pennant race over the finish line this afternoon?
With 2.1 scoreless innings in relief of Bonine last night, Zach Miner now hasn't allowed a run in his last 12 innings.
And in a non-save situation with a five-run lead, Fernando Rodney got three straight groundball outs to finish out the game.
Comment of the Night:
Paging Kevin Rand. Kevin Rand to the field.
Pavano’s been mauled by a gaggle of determined Tigers. Bring the bandaids.