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The Feat of Clete: Tigers 6, Orioles 3

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If you're running a baseball team out there, I highly recommend getting a pitcher like Justin Verlander. Boy, it really helps to have a guy who can help end a losing streak, and give your team a chance to win every time he pitches. It's kind of awesome. (But please notice I said a pitcher "like" Verlander. We're hoping he stays in Tiger Town for a long time.)

For his first four innings, Verlander shut down a lineup that had been devouring Tigers pitching over the past two games, holding the Orioles to two hits. Baltimore finally broke through in the fifth, as the baseball gods just weren't going to tolerate Matt Wieters going more than five at-bats into his Hall of Fame career without getting a hit.

But it was in the sixth where the unstoppable force met the immovable object. I'm not sure which term applies to Verlander and which applies to the unspeakably powerful and horrific weapon known as Luke Scott, but one of the titans eventually buckled. Verlander got Scott to fly out in his first two at-bats, but in that third confrontation, even he couldn't hold back inevitability.

This has become one of those near-certainties that can be expected from life. It will probably rain after you wash your car. Someone in your family will surely get on your nerves at Thanksgiving dinner. And Luke Scott is going to hit a home run against the Detroit Tigers. Scott tied the game with a two-run homer (his fifth in three games), which momentarily caused Tigers fans to question all that they held sacred. If Verlander couldn't get a win in this series, who could?

Fortunately for Detroit, Clete Thomas hit a homer in the very next inning (his second of the game) to take the lead back, and Joel Zumaya made sure that margin held up by striking out Melvin Mora and Scott late in the seventh and eighth. Timely hitting and some shut-down relief pitching will win a lot of ballgames. Even the O's explosive offense couldn't negate that formula.

Roar:

Who does Clete Thomas think he is? Luke Scott? Two home runs in a game? Before last night, Clete had two homers for his career. Maybe playing every day has made a difference. Perhaps he has a new approach at the plate. Or maybe it was Orioles pitching and the tight dimensions of Camden Yards. Whatever the reason, the Tigers needed some offense, and Clete provided it with a 3-for-5, three RBI night. Jim Leyland sure looked smart in moving him to the leadoff spot. Think he'll be there again today?

The Difference:

It's been said over and over again how integral the bullpen was to the Tigers' 2006 World Series run. And they've been trying to recapture that in the three seasons since then. Last night, we saw just how important a lockdown relief corps can be, and why the Tigers will likely be in playoff contention all season. Verlander and Jeremy Guthrie (who had 10 strikeouts) pitched to a six-inning standoff, which left the outcome to each team's bullpen.

Baltimore (Matt Albers, really) gave up three runs and five hits in those remaining three innings. Detroit gave up two hits. And when they needed a strikeout, Zumaya provided it, which is something they didn't have last year.

Comment of the Night:

i can c it now

we will be leading late, and Zumaya or Rodney will be facing Scott or Mora, and will give up a home run…my prediction

by RudeMood19