The Detroit Tigers needed 14 innings, 19 strikeouts, eight pitchers and ended the game by throwing out a runner at the plate, all in order to beat the Seattle Mariners 2-1. The two teams combined for 40 strikeouts (Mariners 19, Tigers 21), the second-highest single game total of all time.
Neither starting pitcher was eligible for a decision, but Max Scherzer and Felix Hernandez deserved better. Scherzer and Hernandez dueled for eight innings, each allowing just one run and striking out 12.
The seventh pitcher for the Tigers, Drew Smyly (1-0), picked up the victory. Joaquin Benoit was credited with the save, but needed to be bailed out by his defense in order to get it.
The fifth of six Mariners pitchers, Charlie Furbush (0-1), took the loss.
You didn't need to be a baseball hipster, have ESP or even ESPN to predict there would be a pitcher's duel in Seattle tonight. You just needed to look at the probables - Felix Hernandez facing Max Scherzer.
The Tigers managed a small threat against King Felix in the first inning, to be quickly shut down. Miguel Cabrera would single with two down and advance to second on a wild pitch. But save for Cabrera, Hernandez struck out the side, including Prince Fielder with a runner in scoring position.
King Felix and Scherzer would proceed to trade outs for the next few innings.
After allowing the first-inning single to Cabrera, the next ten Tigers went down in order against Hernandez. Scherzer did not allow a hit to the first nine Mariners he faced, before allowing an infield single to Franklin Gutierrez leading off the fourth. Scherzer would strike out Kendry Morales and Michael Morse to end the inning, because pitchers' duel.
The Tigers finally got to Hernandez in the fifth. Honestly, the run came right out of the blue.
Victor Martinez smoked a one-hopper which handcuffed shortstop Brendan Ryan. It was ruled an error (should have been a hit, Martinez could not have hit the ball any harder), Martinez safe at first.
Trying to make something happen, Jim Leyland called for the hit and run with Andy Dirks at the plate. It worked (almost) to perfection. Martinez off on the pitch, Dirks doubled to right center, his first extra-base hit of the season. Martinez slowed down as he reached second, not sure if the ball would be caught. Third base coach Tom Brookens was forced to hold Martinez. Good thing, Martinez would have been out by several feet. Like 20 or 30.
Ultimately, Martinez not scoring on Dirk's double didn't make a difference. Taking off on contact, Martinez would score on Jhonny Peralta's RBI ground out, the Tigers taking a 1-0 lead.
The run seemingly broke the ice, the offenses suddenly realizing both pitchers were human, not K machines. The Mariners put together their first threat in the bottom half of the inning.
Justin Smoak walked with one out, took second on Jesus Montero's single to left.
Trouble loomed...but not for long.
Omar Infante made a nice backhand stab of Dustin Ackley's hard hit one-hopper up the middle, quickly starting a 4-6-3 double play to end the Mariners' threat. An excited Scherzer let loose with a fist pump, as shocked as the rest of us to see the middle of Tigers' infield make such a quick turn.
One down in the sixth, Torii Hunter legged out a hustle double thanks to a head first slide allowing him to sneak his hand past the tag of Ackley. Despite the throw easily beating the runner to the bag, replays showed Ackley never moved his glove, allowing Hunter to sneak his hand past it.
Hunter's hustle looked as if it could be a huge play with the Tigers' heavy hitters due up. But Hernandez got Cabrera on a 5-3 ground out and stuck out Fielder for the third consecutive time, ending any thought of a rally.
Scherzer hit double-figure strikeouts in the bottom half of the inning, sandwiching an infield single by Kyle Seager between striking out the side.
Hernandez may not have struck out the side in the top of the seventh, but he did get two more in a 1-2-3 inning. At that point, both Scherzer (10) and King Felix (11) had combined for 21 strikeouts.
Bottom of the seventh, Scherzer had tossed 80 pitches and had a shutout. At 83 pitches, the game was tied at 1-1.
Morse led off by doubling into the left field corner. He would score on Raul Ibanez's RBI single, barely fair over the first base bag. Scherzer would pitch out of further trouble, helped by a nicely turned 5-4-3 double play.
Hernandez was dealing in the eighth, the first two Tigers meekly going to down against King Felix's filthy stuff. But Jackson doubled, giving fans hope. Hope which was quickly dashed when Hunter bounced out, ending the inning.
Scherzer, still going toe-to-toe with Hernandez, took the mound in the bottom of the eighth. He allowed a two-out double to Gutierrez before making Ackley his 12th strikeout victim, ending his evening.
Top of nine, Eric Wedge went to the bullpen, Tom Wilhelmsen taking over for Hernandez. Nothing changed, the right-handed reliever had a 1-2-3 inning, striking out one.
Bottom of nine, same thing. Leyland pulled Scherzer, Octavio Dotel making his first appearance since last Thursday.
Dotel immediately pitched the Tigers into deep trouble. Morales led off with a single, Morse a base on balls. Two on, no one out. Leyland had seen enough, pulling Dotel.
We would proceed to get a replay of the ALCS. Phil Coke got the call out of the pen to face the left-hand hitting Ibanez. The ex-Yankee would ground into a marvelously turned 4-6-3 double play, the third of the night by the Tigers. Infante made an on-target, off-balance throw, Peralta nipping Ibanez at first.
The winning run at third and the right-hand hitting Smoak at the plate, Leyland continued to ride Coke. The not-a-LOOGY made the skipper look like a genius, striking out Smoak to end the threat.
The Tigers couldn't muster a threat in the top of the 10th against a lights-out Wilhelmsen.
Across the diamond, Leyland continued to tempt fate. Fate doesn't like to be tempted. Leyland did anyway.
He got away with using Coke against a right-hand bat. But he would now go with struggling Brayan Villarreal to start the bottom of the 10th.
This was the typical response from Tigers fans:
I fear Brayan Villarreal will allow us all to go to bed.— tiger337 (@tiger337) April 18, 2013
Villarreal went to a 3-2 count on Montero, then walked him.
Ackley sacrificed Montero to second, one down. Villarreal didn't make the play look easy, shot-putting the throw to Fielder.
Villarreal would fall behind 3-0 to pinch hitter Robert Andino, walking on a 3-2 pitch as well.
For the third consecutive batter, Villarreal would go to a 3-2 count. But this time, Villarreal got the swinging strike, Gutierrez whiffing on high 90's heat that could have been ball four.
With two out, Leyland got Villarreal out of the game while the getting was good. He called on Darin Downs to bail out the Tigers.
Downs would, striking out Seager to end a stress-filled half inning.
Right-hander Carter Capps faced the Tigers in the top of the 11th. The 6'5" reliever allowed a one-out single to Hunter. Cabrera followed with a line shot, but right at Andino for the second out, nearly doubling off Hunter.
Fielder due up, Wedge went back to the pen for LOOGY Oliver Perez. Fielder finally did hit the ball, but Gutierrez ran down the sinking liner for the third out.
Al Alburquerque, pitching in back-to-back games for the first time this season, took over for Downs. Just as he was last night, Alburquerque was on his game. He struck out two while setting the Mariners down in order.
After Martinez's bid for a home run fell short for the first out of the 12th, Matt Tuiasosopo pinch hit for Dirks. Big Squiggles worked a walk, then took second on Perez's bad pick-off throw. The Mariners elected to intentionally walk Peralta and pitch to Brayan Pena.
The move paid off. Pena swung through a 3-2 fastball for the second out, the 17th Tigers' K. But the Mariners still needed to get Infante to end the inning.
Make it 18 strikeouts as Infante went down swinging.
Alburquerque pitched the bottom of the 12th without issue, striking out the 18th Mariner in the process.
Tigers ex-pat Charlie Furbush pitched the 13th for the Mariners. Hunter would work a walk, but it was for naught. The K-fest continued unabated. Furbush struck out the side, the Mariners' total now reaching 21.
Drew Smyly took over in the bottom of the 13th. He didn't strike anyone out, but did get out of the inning unscathed, allowing one hit.
Top of 14, the Tigers threatened. Martinez singled, Don Kelly entered the game to pinch run. Furbush walked Tuiasosopo, setting the table for Peralta.
Wedge made the call for right-hander Blake Bevan out the pen.
Peralta was asked to sacrifice, and did lay a bunt down. The bunt only rolled a few feet in front of the plate, so Montero tried to get the force at third. But Kelly got a good break from second and beat the throw, loading the bases.
The Mariners pulled their infield in. Pena's ground ball up the middle was stopped by a diving Andino, but his only play was at first. Kelly would score the first Tigers' run since the fifth inning, and were now up 2-1.
De-facto closer Joaquin Benoit entered the game to nail down the win. It would be a bumpy ride, especially for Pena.
Ibanez flew out to shallow left. One out.
Smoak singled to right.
Montero popped up to Cabrera. Two out.
Then, our worst fear. An extra base hit! NO!
Ackley lined a double off the wall in right. Smoak was going to try and score, no matter what, and was waved around. Hunter flagged down the ball, and overthrew Infante. But he hit the second cut-off man, Fielder, who fired to Pena, who was slightly up the third base line.
Smoak was going to be out by ten feet, so he lowered his shoulder and tried to run through Pena.
The Tigers' backup catcher had his bell rung in a huge collision...but he held onto the ball like all of our lives depended upon it.
At 2:38 AM, the marathon came to an end, the Tigers finally winning 2-1.
The Tigers remain atop the AL Central, raise their record to 9-5, and have won four straight on their West Coast trip. The Mariners fall to 6-10, mired in third place in the AL West.
The Tigers will go for a three-game sweep tomorrow afternoon in Seattle. First pitch is at 3:40 Eastern.
KING FELIX - SCHERZER STRIKEOUT COUNTDOWN:
1st inning: Felix 3, Scherzer 1
2nd inning: Felix 1, Scherzer 1
3rd inning: Felix 0, Scherzer 3
4th inning: Felix 2, Scherzer 2
5th inning: Felix 1, Scherzer 0
6th inning: Felix 2, Scherzer 3
7th inning: Felix 2, Scherzer 0
8th inning: Felix 1, Scherzer 2
The pitcher's duel ended in a draw. Both King Felix and Scherzer would allow one run while striking out 12 in eight innings.
One word: WOW.
Here's more proof that weird things happen to the Tigers on the West Coast:
FSD carried the final Detroit Pistons game of the season, delaying coverage of the Tigers. After the Pistons fell for the 53rd time this season and five outs into the game, we finally saw Max Scherzer on the mound. It could have been worse. The Pistons were a play or two away from sending a meaningless game into overtime. First world problems, indeed.
As pointed out by All-Star BYB commenter SabreRoseTiger, Belle Tire's advertising copy needs an editor.
Prince Fielder was the hottest hitter in baseball. WAS being the operative word. After Tom Wilhelmsen struck out Fielder in the ninth, it was his eighth consecutive K, part of an 0-11 streak against Mariners pitching.
How rare is it for Fielder to have a Golden Sombrero? Very.
Prince Fielder has had 4 games with 4 strikeouts in career. Two of those in the last 2 days. His 0-for-11 streak drops him to .353. #Tigers— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) April 18, 2013
For those on the Tigers' case tonight over their inability to score runs, friend of BYB and the Id of the Tigers fan base would like a word with you.
KDJFDKFDLKFDK A REALLY GOOD PITCHER IS DOING WELL AGAINST US OMG PANIC AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH— David Tokarz (@tokarzontigers) April 18, 2013
Seriously, I don't know if it's the booze or what, but y'all need to chill. Max has dueled King Felix to a draw. That's amazing.— David Tokarz (@tokarzontigers) April 18, 2013
Anyone else think Octavio Dotel is headed to the disabled list? He doesn't pitch for six days due to an elbow issue, then his first appearance back is ugly, unable to get an out. Bruce Rondon is patiently waiting by the phone.
Despite the moaning and groaning online, someone found a positive in Villarreal entering the game.
Guys, you're missing the point about bringing in Villarreal: we finally had the first major league all-Brayan pitcher-catcher combo— Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens) April 18, 2013
If you hung around for the entire game, you witnessed something rare.
According to @baseball_ref, the Tigers are just the fourth team to strike out 16 times in back-to-back games.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) April 18, 2013
Tigers pitching had 16 punch-outs last night, 19 tonight.
Michael Morse's walk-up music is A-Ha. I've officially seen it all.
Martinez just missed going yard twice. The killer was a 12th-inning, loud out, the ball dying on the warning track in left at 1:20 AM EST. I can admit I was trying to will the ball over the wall.
It's the 13th inning. It's 1:45 AM. I'm going to start hallucinating soon. I think I've already started, there's something called a Furbush on the mound.
Only one starter on either team DID NOT STRIKE OUT. That would be Martinez, who left for a pinch runner after singling in the 14th.
Max Scherzer: Definitely deserved better than a no-decision. Scherzer was brilliant in going toe-to-toe with Felix Hernandez. ((MLB.com video of all 12 Scherzer K's)
Phil Coke: Pitched out of a massive jam not of his own doing, keeping Tigers fans awake well into the wee hours of the morning.
Al Alburquerque: His Mr. Snappy slider has been unhittable the last two nights.
Brayan Pena: Had the best 14th inning ever, getting both the game-winning RBI and stopping Justin Smoak cold at the plate to win the game.
Brayan Villarreal: The other Brayan scared the living crap out of me. AGAIN.
Octavio Dotel: Didn't get an out. In Dotel's defense, he may be trying to pitch through an injured elbow.
TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
Miguel Cabrera's three hits and four RBI put him over fellow nominees Doug Fister and Austin Jackson.