Well, well, well, here we are again. The 2014 regular season has come to an end, and for the fourth year in a row, our Tigers have secured a division crown. Of course, it wasn't an easy ride, but as with the first half of the season, so also the second half was full of thrilling moments. One thing that stood out to me, as I dug through my audio archive of Dan Dickerson's calls, was the sheer number of dramatic moments that took place in the late innings as the Tigers fought again and again to come back and win games at the eleventh hour.
Here, then, are my ten favorite moments from the second half of the season, as called by Dan Dickerson.
Austin Jackson leaves the field for the last time, July 31
It was a bittersweet moment, to be sure. The news broke mid-game that the Tigers had just acquired David Price at the trade deadline, but we weren't entirely sure what the cost of that trade was, until Austin Jackson was pulled out of the game in the middle of the seventh inning.
Ezequiel Carrera's diving catch, August 4
In the bottom of the third inning against the Yankees, with the bases loaded, Jacoby Ellsbury ripped a pitch to the warning track in center field that surely would have been a bases-clearing double (or even a triple), if not for some fancy flying acrobatics by Ezequiel Carrera.
Suarez and Castellanos bomb their way to a lead in the 9th, August 8
Down 4-2 with one out in the ninth inning, facing Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen, Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez teamed up for back-to-back home runs that put the Tigers in front with a 5-4 lead.
JD Martinez goes yard in the 9th, September 2
Facing Indians closer Cody Allen in the ninth inning and down 2-1, Torii Hunter drew a walk, Miguel Cabrera singled, and Victor Martinez flew out, which brought late-innings Drama Man JD Martinez to the plate. He did not disappoint us.
Joe Nathan picks off Jarrod Dyson, September 9
We all knew going into September just how important those final six head-to-head games against the Royals would be. In this second game of the series in Detroit, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead, but Kansas City was clawing their way back. The Tigers held a 4-2 lead going into the ninth inning and Joe Nathan was called on to close it out. After giving up two weak singles to start off the inning, putting the tying runs on base with nobody out, Nathan buckled down and took matters into his own hands. Here are the final three outs of that inning, including the stunning pick-off of Jarrod Dyson at second base.
Needless to say, the Kansas City announcers were less than thrilled with this turn of events.
Avila homers to put the Tigers ahead in the 8th, September 13
This time it was Alex Avila's turn to cash in on some late-innings heroics. Down 4-3 against the Indians, facing Bryan Shaw in the bottom of the eighth, Miguel Cabrera drew a walk to lead off. Two harmless outs later, his pinch-runner Ezequiel Carrera stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position for Avila. Needing just a base hit to tie the game, Avila upped the ante and continued his tradition of tormenting the Indians.
Kinsler's go-ahead home run in the 7th, September 14
What's better than coming back to beat the Indians with a late-innings dinger? Doing it two days in a row, against the same pitcher. The Tigers were down 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, facing Bryan Shaw again. Rajai Davis led off with a single, stole second, and was just waiting for the chance to race home with the tying run, if Ian Kinsler could just come up with a base hit. Kinsler went yard instead to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
Hunter and Miggy go back-to-back in the 9th, September 15
It was getting a bit ridiculous at this point, right? How many times can one team hit dramatic home runs late in the game to steal a victory from the jaws of defeat? For the third night in a row, the Tigers found themselves needing magic at the last minute. The Twins had just tied the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth, and some would say they had that ever-elusive "momentum" on their side. The Tigers came to bat in the top of the ninth against Casey Fien, and less than three pitches later, the Tigers had taken a 8-6 lead thanks to Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera.
Miggy's walk-off hit, September 23
What's the big deal about a walk-off single? The timing, in this case. Holding on to a slim one-game lead over the Royals in the AL Central, the Tigers had just watched a 3-0 lead over the White Sox evaporate in the top of the ninth. Now, with the game tied at three, and with the Royals easily winning a 7-1 game against the Indians, the Tigers needed to take care of business if they wanted to retain sole possession of first place. Facing Jake Petricka, Ian Kinsler singled and advanced to second on Torii Hunter's walk. That brought up "the big man," and that was all she wrote.
Tigers clinch the division, September 28
In the words of Torii Hunter when the Tigers clinched their division last year, "we've still got work to do, but right now we're going to enjoy this." Taking a 3-0 lead over the Twins into the ninth inning, Joe Nathan pitched a stress-free ninth (as if any clinching game's ninth inning can be truly stress-free), getting Arcia to pop out into foul territory for the final out of the regular season.
So there you have it. Those were my favorite memories of the second half. What were some of yours?
(Need some more? You can revisit my collection of Dan Dickerson moments from the first half of the season as well.)