Prince Fielder's 8th inning home run powered the Detroit Tigers to a come from behind 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Chicago White Sox 6-2, giving the Tigers a 3 game lead in the Central with 3 to play. The Tigers' Magic Number is down to 1.
Nailing down the final 2 outs of the 7th in relief of a stellar Anibal Sanchez, Phil Coke earned the victory. Jose Valverde pitched a 1-2-3 9th for his 34th save. Twins reliever Jared Burton was tagged for both Fielder's game winning home run and the loss.
Fielder led the Tigers with his 30th home run and 2 RBI, Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks chipping in with 2 hits apiece. Pedro Florimon had the Twins' lone RBI, Joe Mauer adding 3 singles.
Miguel Cabrera was hitless in 4 at bats, but still leads the AL in the Triple Crown categories.
The game starts with the Tigers' magic number at 3. Or in the words of the Tootsie Roll owl, "One, Two, Thrrrree....Thrrrree": A Tigers win and White Sox loss guarantees a game 163...God help us.
The Tigers start the afternoon going down in order, One, Two, Thrrrree against Liam Hendriks, pounding 3 ground ball into the turf. At the same time, Justin Upton was getting busy going yard against the Pale Hose, giving the Rays a 2-0 1st inning lead.
Joe Mauer is the first base runner of the game, getting his first hit of the series with 2 out in the 1st off Anibal Sanchez. But the inning would end when Sanchez pitched Justin Morneau on the fists, exploding his bat, resulting in an easy pop up to Slumping Jhonny Peralta.
The Tigers' first base runner would be Delmon Young after 1 was down in the 2nd. His fly to deep right center landed at the base of the wall, Young chop stepping his way to a stand-up double. But the Tigers' much derided DH would be stranded, Andy Dirks flying out and Slumping Jhonny Peralta grounding weakly to 3rd.
Sanchez allowed another 2 out hit in the bottom of the 2nd, Trevor Plouffe looping a liner over short Before any trouble ensued, Omar Infante ranged far to his left to throw out Alexi Casilla. Inning over as the game remained scoreless.
The Tigers would go down in order in the 3rd, despite Infante and Austin Jackson hitting Hendricks' pitches on the screws, but right at defenders. Sanchez would counter with a 1-2-3 inning of his own, the Twins not hitting a ball out of the infield.
The Tigers' offense could do little against Hendricks, a pitcher with an ERA of 6.09. The trend continued in the 4th.
Casilla robbed Quintin Berry of a hit leading off the 4th, making a diving stop on a grounder up the middle, throwing Q out from his knees. Hendrick finished off the inning on a Cabrera ground out and Fielder pop up.
Fighting his way back into the batting race, Mauer singled for the 2nd time against Sanchez leading off the bottom of the 4th.Trying to avoid the double play, Ron Gardenhire started Mauer on the hit and run with Morneau at the plate. It worked, Mauer advancing to 2nd on a 6-3 ground out.
Sanchez pitched out of the jam without too much effort. He struck out this weekend's Tiger Killer, Ryan Doumit, on a knee-breaking change which painted the black. Sanchez ended the inning on Chris Parmelee's can of corn to Jackson, covering a huge amount of ground in center.
The Rays' added a run in the 4th against the White Sox, making it a 3-0 game on Ryan Roberts' solo home run. The Sox made it 3-2 in the bottom of the inning, showing signs of life.
Hendricks had set 9 Tigers down in a row when Dirks ripped a hard single to right with 1 out in the 5th. Slumping Jhonny Peralta moved Dirks tom the next station on a single to center. But Avila was caught looking on an inside fastball, leaving it up to Infante. After a battle, Infante fouling off several 2 strike pitches, Hendricks would strand the runners on a lazy fly to center.
Frustration level rising...
1 down in the bottom of the 4th, Casilla manufactured a threat with his legs. He dropped a perfect bunt single between a charging Cabrera and Sanchez for the Twins' 4th hit of the afternoon. Casillia followed up by stealing 2nd and 3rd on consecutive pitches with Pedro Florimon at the plate.
With the infield in, Sanchez blew away Florimon, striking him out. Sanchez pitched out of the jam on a Denard Span 4-3 ground out. It was a hot shot, but Infante handled it easily.
Jackson led off the 6th, singling to center. Jim Leyland, playing for 1 freaking run and taking the bat out Cabrera's hands in the process, had Berry sacrifice. Of course, the Twins intentionally walked the Tigers' MVP Candidate, preferring to pitch to Prince Fielder.
The strategy worked to perfection, Fielder grounding into a 3-6-1 double play. Hendricks made a nice play to keep his foot on the bag while hauling in a high relay throw.
Feel free to put that blown inning on Leyland and his dusty managerial bible, folks.
Likely just as frustrated with the offense as the fan base was, Sanchez walked Ben Revere to open the bottom of the 6th. The Twins worked the hit and run perfectly, Mauer singling for the 3rd time, Revere taking 3rd.
Sanchez got a huge out, as first pitch swinging Morneau popped up to Cabrera. Tiger Killer Doumit followed with a comebacker to Sanchez. He smartly looked back Revere, then used an soft, underhanded toss to Fielder for out number 2.
Sanchez went to a 2-2 count on Parmalee. On the 6th pitch of the at bat, Parmalee crushed a line drive which looked to have 2 RBI double in the left field corner written all over it. But Cabrera, using every inch of his vertical, bailed Sanchez out with a leaping grab, ending the inning in spectacular fashion.
At the same time, the Rays increased their lead over the White Sox to 5-2 in the 5th. Some similar offense from the Tigers would be nice...
After Young did his "strike out on a breaking pitch in the dirt" routine leading off the 7th, Dirks doubled in the left center field gap. Peralta, catching a break on what appeared to be a half-swinging strike 3 which was ruled a check-swing ball 3, worked a walk.
Avila's liner to right was hauled in by Revere, Dirks tagging up, moving to 3rd. The table was set for Infante, but he grounded out 5-3 to end the threat. Once again, the Tigers were spending their day making a bad pitcher look like Cy damn Young.
Plouffe led off the bottom of the 7th with a broken bat seeing eye infield single. Cabrera didn't have the range to flag it down, Slumping Jhonny Peralta's throw in the dirt.
Following Twins' protocol, Jamey Carroll pinch ran and was moved over on Casilla's sacrifice. So it is written, so shall it be done.
The attempt to manufacture a run worked when Florimon dropped a broken bat RBI single to right, giving the Twins a 1-0 lead.
With that, despite pitching damn well and receiving absolutely no run support, Sanchez's day was over. With 4 consecutive left handed bats due up, Phil Coke got the bullpen call. He immediately allowed a single to the ever annoying Span. Avila made a very nice play for the 2nd out, throwing out Revere on a swinging bunt.
Smartly, the Tigers walked Mauer in order to pitch to Morneau. The move worked, Morneau ending the inning on a ground ball to Infante (almost pulling Fielder off the bag on a high throw).
Would the Tigers have better luck against the Twins' bullpen? We'd soon find out, as Jared Burton started the 8th in place of Hendricks.
Raising hopes, Jackson led off with a single to center.
With the Tigers fan base in rage mode, ready to attack if Berry was asked to bunt, Leyland surprised us all. Berry was swinging away. Unfortunately, he would look at a middle of the plate meatball for strike 3. At least Berry didn't take the bat out of Cabrera's hands.
Hitting Burton's pitch like it was off a tee, Cabrera proceeded to hit a ball as hard as humanly possible. But his cannon shot was fired straight at a leaping Florimon for a very, very very LOUD out. A more frustrating out you'll never see.
With the fan base's ire with the Tigers' offense reaching a boiling point (fueling the fire was the Detroit Lions' awful loss to the Minnesota Vikings), Fielder got a first pitch fastball on the outside of the plate. He would deposit it in the seats in left field, his 30th home run giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
The Tigers finally on the scoreboard and holding a slim lead, and the Rays were beating the White Sox 5-2 in the 8th, you could see the magic number dropping past 2 and down to 1. But the Tigers would need 6 outs from their scuffling bullpen to get there.
Joaquin Benoit had the day off (I'm guessing there were more than a few Tigers fans yelling, "Good!"), so Octavio Dotel took over the 8th inning setup role for the day. After 2 quick outs, the Twins got all Twins-like, causing trouble.
Carroll blooped a single in front of Dirks. Casilla followed with a single to right, Carroll motoring to 3rd. Before you could start tossing profanities at Dotel, Florimon drilled a liner to left. But Berry was in position to make the play, his line drive nothing more than an inning ending out, the Tigers clutching tightly to a 2-1 lead.
Twins closer Glen Perkins worked a very quick 9th, striking out 2 while setting the Tigers down in order.
It was Big Potato time.
Jose Valverde took the mound, looking for save number 34 . He would face the top of the Twins order: Span, Revere and Head and Shoulders' spokeman, Mauer.
Papa Grande made quick use of one of the best fielding center fielders in baseball.
Span got all of a Potato fastball, sending Jackson 400 feet from the plate, where he made a leaping catch up against the wall in right center for out number 1.
Revere followed by ripping a line drive to center. But Jackson, racing in, grabbed the liner off his shoe tops for out number 2.
There was no further drama or a need for Jackson's glove. Mauer didn't even muss his hair on a tapper to Fielder for out number 3.
Cue Potato dancing! (Actually, he did most of his dancing after Jackson ran down Span's drive)
Their season ending collapse almost complete, the White Sox fell to the Rays, 6-2. The Tigers' division lead is 3 games with 3 to play.
Does everyone now feel more than a little silly with the rage and hate before the game was actually over? From following Twitter during games, you would swear some "fans" want and/or expect this team to lose. Even more so if it meant Jim Leyland lost his job.
Screw 'em. I'm enjoying an E-ticket ride to a possible playoff berth.
Bullets are brought to you by Mario Olives! Taste the Mario difference!
- The Tigers are 86-73, a season high 13 games over the .500 with 3 games remaining.The White Sox fall to 3 games back at 83-76.
- The magic number is down to 1.
- Today's win guaranteed, at the very worst, the Tigers would play a game 163 if needed.
- How bad has Slumping Jhonny Peralta been post All-Star break? Really, really bad. He's hitting .218 with a worse than awful .278 OBP in the 2nd half. Almost makes one pine for the days of Adam Everett.
- Rod Allen to Mario Impemba after Mario used the word "scintillating": "Oh, you're breaking out the words again for the last 4, I see!" Oh, Rod!
- Mario and Rod are in agreement. If Max Scherzer can't start in the (possible) post season, it's Drew Smyly over Rick Porcello in the rotation. I can't disagree.
- Jim Leyland had an awful series strategy-wise. There's no defending the ridiculous sacrifice bunt in the 6th. All it did was take the bat out of the hands of the best hitter in the AL, and give the Twins a free out.
- The 6th inning GIDP was the Tigers' 151st of the season, leading the majors.
- Prince Fielder's 8th inning big fly gave him his 7th consecutive season of 30 home runs. More impressively, now hitting .309, Fielder has a shot at a 300 average for the first time in his career.
- Cabrera and Fielder are the first pair of Tigers to have 30 HR/100 RBI in the same season since Cecil Fielder and Mickey Tettleton in 1993.
- Jim Leyland post game cliche central: "That was a good one!" "Really, really good ball game" "We gotta win games." "If we win, we're going to be the champs,simple as that."
- Leyland on the bullpen: "You gotta feel comfortable with 'em, because you aren't bringing up 5 guys from the instructional league to replace them."
MIGUEL CABRERA TRIPLE CROWN WATCH:
American League Triple Crown standings as of 2 PM this afternoon:
- Batting average - .326: Cabrera leads Wonderboy Mike Trout by .005 at .321, Joe Mauer is 0-13 in his last 3 games, dropping to 3rd place at .320.
- Home runs - 43: Cabrera's 8th inning bomb tied Josh Hamilton for the league lead at 43, Edwin Encarnacion trails by 1.
- RBI - 136: Thanks to his 3 ribbies on Saturday, Cabrera has pulled away in the RBI race, leading Hamilton by 11 RBI.
Due to a Saturday rain out in Texas, Hamilton and the Rangers played an afternoon twin-bill with Wonderboy and the Angels. Encarnacion and the Jays were home against the Yankees. And you already know the what and where in regard to Cabrera and Mauer
- 1st inning: GO 6-3, .326.
- 2nd inning: GO-u3, .326.
- 5th inning: IBB, .326.
- 8th inning: LO-6, .325.
Cabrera ends the day at .325/43/136.
The batting average race tightened up considerably. Mauer's 3 hits raised his average to .323, while Cabrera' 0-4 day lowered his to .325. Wonderboy stood at .322 after game 1 of a double header.
There was no change in the home run race. Hamilton did have an RBI, moving to 10 back of Cabrera.
Max Scherzer throwing in the outfield this morning. Fingers crossed, people.
Today's living the good life in the big leagues is brought to you by the chatty Cathies in the bullpen.
The worst fielding 3rd baseman in baseball (which was the media storyline to start the season), Miguel Cabrera, saved 2 runs with a leaping catch.
Excited Prince Fielder is excited! How excited? He had a 3 inch vertical while pumping his fist!
Austin Jackson keeps the Big Potato from being mashed.
Anibal Sanchez: Deserved a far, far better fate than to be cursed with an inconsistent offense, giving him no run support against a lousy starting pitcher.
Prince Fielder: His game winning home run was his biggest hit as a Tiger. It also kept the fan base from picking up their pitchforks and torches, and heading off to meet the Tigers in KC.
Austin Jackson: Thanks to his 9th inning defense, he should get the save. Was also on base when Fielder went deep.
Jim Leyland: Bunts which take the bat out of Cabrera's hands are mind-numbingly dumb.
Alex Avila: An awful day at the plate, 0-4 with 3 strikeouts.
Qunitin Berry: 0-3 with a strikeout.
GAME 158 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
In his final start of the regular season, Justin Verlander was Cy Young worthy in a 7 inning, no earned runs allowed performance. For his efforts, Verlander was voted BYB PotG for the...Hell, I've lost count how many times he's won.