One of the most intriguing (and vexing) aspects of this 2009 Detroit Tigers team is how quickly its fortunes seem to turn. On Sunday, after losing two of three in Oakland, the prospects for success - whether for the rest of this road trip, or further down the lie - didn't look that promising. What was going to happen when the Tigers played a good team, like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?
The Tigers' fortunes turn quickly even during a game. Jarrod Washburn got off to a rough start, allowing three runs and five hits in his first three innings. And those sensations of dread - those "Was this really a good trade?" questions - began to roil in the mind (and stomach).
Washburn kept falling behind hitters, and had to tee up strikes to catch up. But the Angels weren't missing those pitches. Especially Howie Kendrick, who blasted a three-run homer to right field. (Say this about Washburn: With the exception of a couple of wind-blown fly balls last week, when he gives up a home run, it's usually not a cheapie.)
But The Tigers bailed Washburn out with a couple of fine defensive plays, and that may have given him the confidence to keep making his pitches and tough it out. He ended up pitching another three innings, allowing three hits along the way. And with Washburn settled down, the offense not only tied the game for him, but also took the lead in the seventh.
Initially, it appeared that the Tigers caught a rough break when Curtis Granderson's long fly ball to right-center was ruled a triple, instead of a home run (even upon further review), after bouncing off the top of the wall. (The look of dissatisfaction - and disbelief - on Grandy's face while he caught his breath at third base was rather amusing.) But Placido Polanco followed up with a triple of his own - this one a legit triple - to put Detroit on top. Magglio Ordonez hit a sacrifice fly (a productive out!) to bring home Polanco for a two-run lead.
That lead was hardly safe, however, as the bullpen seemed almost determined to hand it right back to the Angels. Zach Miner had the kind of outing that makes you wonder if he'll have a role on a playoff roster, walking the bases loaded in the seventh. Yet he escaped that jam on the luckiest of plays, as Alex Avila fielded a wild pitch and threw it back to Miner at home in time to nail Bobby Abreu for the third out of the inning. Miner somewhat redeemed himself by getting the first two outs of the eighth, but was taken out after issuing his fourth walk.
Detroit got another great defensive play to end the inning when Clete Thomas made a leaping catch at the wall on a deep fly ball (which looked like a sure game-tying, two-run homer) by Kendry Morales. And some people wonder why the guy has a cult following.
Enter Fernando Rodney for the ninth. And if the Tigers' closer had one of his strongest ninth innings of the season on Monday night, this was kind of the opposite. Rodney put the first two batters on base, giving up a single to Chone Figgins and walking Abreu. Figgins then got to third on a passed ball. From there, it didn't look like a question of if the Tigers would lose, but how.
Yet just as Washburn settled in and made his pitches, so did Rodney. Torii Hunter hit a shallow fly ball that Granderson charged in hard to catch. Vladimir Guerrero swung at a ball too far inside - where Rodney kept working him - and lined it out to second base. And Juan Rivera did much the same, grounding out to second base. That pitch, however, was a 100 m.p.h. fastball. Did Rodney reach back for something extra, or are those Anaheim radar guns generous?)
What was going to happen when the Tigers played a good team, like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? How about a series win? (And they could make it a clean sweep this afternoon.) Were you expecting that on Sunday?
Miguel Cabrera had his third straight three-hit game. And each of those games has included a home run. BigMig's hitting streak is now up to 10 games, and during that span, he's batted 23-for-42 (.548) with four homers and 15 RBIs. That MVP train is picking up some momentum, people.
Alex Avila is hitless in his last three games, going 0-for-10. He has one hit in his last 13 at-bats. Were we a little hasty with the idolatry?
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