For all the hand-wringing over the Minnesota Twins still being too close for comfort in the AL Central race (though they are now five games out of first place), the Detroit Tigers should be okay if they do what good teams usually do. Beat the teams you're supposed to, and break even against the upper tier of the league.
How are the Tigers doing with this? Last weekend, they split with the defending AL champion Rays. And after this afternoon's walk-off victory, Detroit swept the fourth-place team in the AL Central. So far, so good.
Nate Robertson pitched well for the second consecutive start, throwing six shutout innings and holding the Indians to just four hits. Cleveland really only had one decent scoring chance, getting a runner to third in the fifth inning. Once again, it was an effort deserving of a win. And this time around, Robertson got some runs from his lineup.
Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn't quite get it through to the finish. The relief corps was a bit short-handed, with Bobby Seay, Brandon Lyon, and Fernando Rodney each pitching the last two nights and presumably unavailable. (Especially with a short turnaround from night game to day game.) So it was bound to be shaky unless they were given a big lead. A three-run margin wasn't quite large enough, thanks largely to Fu-Te Ni.
Ni left a slider out over the plate to Shin-Soo Choo, who promptly launched it to the right field wall for a two-run, game-tying double. Fortunately for Ni, the game was at Comerica Park, so it wasn't a homer. But it cost Robertson a win, nonetheless, and put the final outcome in doubt.
That is, until Rafael Perez took the mound for the Indians in the 10th. Perez gave up a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn, then walked the next two batters (intentionally passing Miguel Cabrera). Bases loaded, and no outs? Hey, the Tigers have been known to squander such opportunities.
But if you need one guy to put the ball in play and make a productive out, Placido Polanco is probably the one you want batting. So Jim Leyland got him in there. And when Perez teed up a slider right down the middle of the plate, Polanco made sure he did something with it. His fly ball was deep enough to center for Raburn to run in standing up for the game-winner.
Beat the teams you're supposed to beat. Especially at home. It's all part of the plan, you might say.
Zach Miner hasn't exactly been lights-out lately. I'm sure more than a few people weren't happy when he took over for Ni in the eighth. But the Tigers don't win today without his 2.1 hitless innings of relief. And the one walk he allowed was negated when Gerald Laird threw out Michael Brantley attempting to steal.
Of course, the Tigers also wouldn't have built a three-run lead without Clete Thomas's two-run triple in the seventh. So kudos to him, as well.
Comment of the Day:
Ok, hands up, who predicted a Carmona/Robertson pitchers duel?
anyone with their hand up is a filthy stinkin’ liar :)
And your runner-up, even though most people probably weren't in the mood for singing after Ni gave up those two runs.