Only one game now separates first place from second in the AL Central, as the Minnesota Twins took the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader from the Detroit Tigers, 3-2. You wanted a close race, baseball fans? The Tigers just accommodated you.
Do they have to be so accommodating? Maybe it's a Midwestern thing.
This one took on a familiar feeling of dread, as the Tigers just couldn't break through with some offense against Nick Blackburn. The squandering began from the very first inning, as no one could drive in Curtis Granderson after he hit a leadoff double. Detroit scored a run in the second, but really should've gotten more with two runners on and one out.
And on it went. In the third, the Tigers led off with runners on first and third, but couldn't drive either one in. In the fourth, they had a runner on second with one out, but couldn't put the ball in play. Those last two outs were part of 14 straight batters the Twins retired.
Minnesota finally broke through in the 10th inning against Brandon Lyon. Denard Span hit a leadoff single, and unfortunately for the Tigers, Lyon helped him around the bases with two wild pitches. With a runner on third and no outs, the Twins made sure they didn't blow the opportunity. Orlando Cabrera drove in Span with a single. Minnesota then manufactured its way to a second run with two walks (one intentional) and two sacrifices.
If only the Tigers could do that. It works so much better than ending an inning with a groundout.
With that, Detroit wasted a fantastic, playoff-worthy pitching performance from Rick Porcello. Kid Rick pitched into the seventh inning, giving up only one run and seven hits. He also only walked one batter. If anyone was wondering how the rookie would respond to some playoff-type of pressure, he answered affirmatively.
Unfortunately, the Tigers' lineup couldn't do the same. And how many times have we sang that tune this season?
Placido Polanco has had a fantastic September (.375/.422/.500 coming into today), so maybe his 0-for-5 this afternoon seems even more disappointing because of that. Polanco also left four men on base.
But really, you could close your eyes, point at anyone in Detroit's batting order, and probably find a player who didn't perform. Aubrey Huff, 0-for-3 (and three left on base). Carlos Guillen, 0-for-3. The opportunities were there to score runs, and Tigers batters didn't not seize them.
The two guys who brought their bats to the park today were Curtis Granderson and Brandon Inge, who hit a combined 4-for-9. Grandy also cut the Tigers' deficit to one in the ninth inning with a homer off Joe Nathan. His hot streak continues. Inge, meanwhile, broke an 0-for-13 slump with his performance today.
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