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Tigers 5, Rays 3: Walkoff bomb from Miguel Cabrera

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WOW, despite a bad back, the beast can still eat with the best of them.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After a low energy dogfight most of the night, and the customary eruption of the Tigers’ bullpen, it was Miguel Cabrera who came through when his team desperately needed him. A two-run bomb walked this one off and broke the Tigers’ losing streak.

It didn’t look too good early on. Justin Verlander still ain’t right. For a few batters, the power fastball and sharp 12-to-6 curve are in evidence with solid movement and location. And just as quickly, it seems to get away from him for a few hitters. So it’s to his credit that he was able to battle through this one, pitching around outbreaks of poor command. Watching him on the mound, it’s hard to believe the groin injury isn’t still nagging at him a bit. Then again, he’s been like this most of the season.

Verlander breezed through an easy first inning, and the Tigers quickly got on board when Victor Martinez lined a single to score Ian Kinsler. Verlander gave the run back just as fast on a single, walk and RBI groundout. The Rays added another in the third, but doubles by Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez tied things up again at two apiece.

From there, the offenses were held in check. Alex Cobb pitched well, and despite looking off, Verlander powered through six innings in less than 100 pitches, punching out six and inducing a pair of double plays to escape trouble. The four walks, however, extended Verlander’s dubious lead in the majors in that category.

Verlander extended that walk total to five with one gone in the seventh, issuing a free pass to one of the faster players in baseball, Mallex Smith. Verlander angrily snapped his glove as Alex Avila tossed the ball back to him, the only real show of emotion from an uncharacteristically stoic Tigers’ ace on the night. Brad Ausmus made a dangerous play to stick with his guy, and it nearly blew up in his face. The red-hot Corey Dickerson smoked a ground ball that Nicholas Castellanos just managed to snare and throw to second for the out. Verlander retired Evan Longoria on a weak grounder off his slider, and walked off the mound with a sketchy but effective performance.

Rays’ manager Kevin Cash then returned the favor in the bottom of the frame, and he too slipped a trap of his own making, if only temporarily. Ian Kinsler led off with a single, and with his pitch count climbing to 110, Alex Cobb walked Alex Avila to put a pair on. In another baffling decision, Cash left Cobb in to face Miguel Cabrera. Cobb got a weak double-play ball from Cabrera and finally Cash turned to Jumbo Diaz to face Victor Martinez. A weak groundball to shortstop somehow eluded shortstop Daniel Robertson, and Kinsler scampered home to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.

After his public airing of grievances this week, Francisco Rodriguez got what he wanted. Ausmus gave him the rope by bringing him on in a one run game in the eighth, and Rodriguez strung them both up on it. The former closer, turned problem child, surrendered a missile to left off the bat of Steven Souza, and the boos rained down. Between the decision to use him there, the home run, and Rodriguez’ knife in the back of his coaching staff, the specific target of the boos felt unclear. It was a vast undifferentiated boo. A low, droning sound from the collective soul of a sparsely represented and worn down fanbase.

However, we weren’t done yet. Justin Wilson set the Rays down in the top of the ninth, and the stage was set. Alex Avila singled with one out, and Miguel Cabrera, clearly struggling with a back issue, launched a two-run shot into the night and improbably, the fans were sent home happy.

Roars:

Miguel Cabrera: He looked on the verge of a DL stint most of the night, but when the lights were brightest, Cabrera delivered a desperately needed walkoff shot.

Justin Verlander: Something just ain’t right. Verlander is walking the world right now, but he battled through it with good fastballs and a curveball that had a much better shape on it than in recent outings. A gutsy but troublesome outing the Tigers really needed. 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 5 BB, 6 SO. Weird, man.

Ian Kinsler: A single, a stolen base, two runs scored, and a pair of nice double play turns from the stalwart second baseman.

Hisses:

Francisco Rodriguez and Brad Ausmus: One called out his manager and coaching staff, demanding high leverage situations in which to prove himself. The other gave him a chance to put up or shut up, with predictable results.

Stats and Info: