Edwin Jackson got the one run tonight that Justin Verlander didn't last night. That's one way of looking at it. A more cynical view might be that Fernando Rodney didn't blow tonight's game. But he didn't have a lead to protect. Jackson did. And he protected it ferociously.
Even if Rodney had been available in the ninth inning this evening, he probably wouldn't have gotten the call. Because this was Jackson's game. And he wasn't going to let the Detroit Tigers lose tonight. It's one of the most overused cliches in sports to say that a guy put his team on his back and carried them to victory. But how else would you describe what Jackson did tonight?
After giving up two hits to lead off the game, leading to an Angels run, it looked like this might not be Jackson's night. And that led to a feeling of despair, because if Jackson didn't have it tonight, what chance did the Tigers really have? This lineup isn't going to bail any pitcher out right now, with the way they're hitting. Jackson must have realized that, because he shut the door from there on out. (Either that, or he was inspired by the offense coming right back to take the lead in the home half of the inning.) The Angels only got two more hits the entire game. None after the sixth inning. And that was all Jackson.
If Rodney pitched a lights-out ninth inning like the one Jackson threw tonight, no one would be questioning whether or not the Tigers still need a closer. Jackson had thrown 96 pitches going into the ninth, and the Angels sent up the heart of their order, with Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero, and Torii Hunter.
Abreu struck out looking in five pitches. (And with a vigorous punch-out from home plate umpire Tom Hallion.) Guerrero swung at three straight pitches for another strikeout. And though Hunter tried to put up a fight by fouling off two pitches, Jackson closed out the game with authority, striking him out on a slider. It was the exclamation point on a dominating performance. Game over. Losing streak over.
Jackson gets the Roar, of course, but the middle of the batting order actually produced tonight, with Magglio Ordonez and Curtis Granderson driving in the Tigers' runs. Does the lineup still have a lot of progress to make? Yes, but just good enough was all Jackson needed.
(And help may be on the way, with Jim Leyland announcing after tonight's game that Marcus Thames was being called up for tomorrow's game. Jeff Larish is being sent down to Toledo in return.)
Comment of the Night:
And with Minnesota's 2-1 loss to the Mariners tonight, the Tigers push their first-place lead back up to 2.5 games. (Thanks, Seattle!)
AL Central Standings
That, and a 5-0 win for the Wings, makes for a pretty sweet night in Detroit sports.