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Dodgers 3, Tigers 2: That’s what the best teams do

The Tigers held a tenuous lead all game, but couldn’t expand it, and the Dodgers are the Dodgers.

Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Tigers had the early lead in this one, but they couldn’t build on it. Instead the relentless Dodgers offense couldn’t be denied in the end. After a Hinch bullpen decision went bad in the eighth, Max Muncy walked it off against Alex Lange on a single and a bang-bang play at the plate.

Things also started off with a bang in the second of three from Chavez Ravine. Both teams were going with a bullpen game, and the Dodgers started with lefty Caleb Ferguson in the first inning. Matt Vierling and Andy Ibáñez struck out, but Spencer Torkelson got a fastball away but in the zone and smoked it out to left field for his 29th round-tripper on the year.

Miguel Diaz was slated to handle the first inning for the Tigers, but he had some trouble. Mookie Betts smoked a line drive to Vierling in left for the first out, but Freddie Freeman doubled, and Will Smith ripped a single to right field in front of Kerry Carpenter. Diaz bounced back momentarily, striking out Max Muncy with a pair of well located fastballs and a nasty changeup down after falling behind 3-0. However, Diaz then walked J.D. Martinez, and A.J. Hinch had seen enough. Tyler Holton came on against David Peralta who lined one up the middle. Ibáñez laid full out to knock it down, then scrambled to the ball and whipped an underhand throw to Zack Short on second for the final out as Ibáñez went to the ground again.

Disaster averted.

Right-hander Ryan Pepiot pitched the second for the Dodgers, and he racked up three fly outs in order. Holton got Jason Heyward, who is having an insanely good season after 6-7 years of general futility at the plate, to ground out to open the bottom of the second, and then punched out James Outman and Miguel Rojas.

Short struck out to open the third, but Parker Meadows got a Pepiot fastball out over the plate and hammered it at 101.7 mph to center field for his second MLB home run.

Holton got Betts to ground out to open the bottom half, but Freeman is unstoppable and lined a single to right field. However, Holton has been fairly unstoppable himself this year, and he got Will Smith and Muncy to ground out to send us to the fourth.

The Tigers went in order, while J.D. Martinez led off the bottom half with his third home run of the series already, and 29th on the year. J Dingerz still has it.

Peralta lined another one up the middle, this time it was Holton who snared it. Heyward and Outman grounded out, and the Tigers held a 2-1 lead heading to the fifth inning.

Tyler Nevin doubled in the fifth with one out, but that went nowhere. Beau Brieske took over for Holton and gave up just a Betts single.

In the sixth, Ibáñez walked with one out, and Rogers singled after Torkelson struck out. Unfortunately Carpenter flew out, so it remained a slim one-run lead into the bottom of the sixth.

Brieske struck out Muncy, then perhaps wisely walked Martinez. Peralta hit his third hard hit line drive of the day, and again it found a glove, this time Carpenter’s in right field. Heyward flew out and we were on to the seventh.

Pepiot was still doing his thing, but after a seven pitch battle with Miguel Cabrera, the big fella stroked a line drive to center for a single, and accepted his due from the crowd and his teammates in the dugout as Akil Baddoo came on to pinch-run for him. That was hit number 3167 in his legendary career, passing his good buddy Adrian Beltre for 16th all-time. Cal Ripken is 15th, with 3184 and probably just out of reach at this point.

Tyler Nevin singled to left with Baddoo on the run, and he made it to third. Unfortunately, a little bunt from Zack Short gave Pepiot plenty of time to get Baddoo going on contact at home plate. Meadows and Vierling flew out, and that was that.

Outman beat Brieske to the bag on a ground ball to first to open the bottom half of the inning, and then Rojas grounded into a force of Outman at second. Hinch turned to Jason Foley at that point, and Betts greeted him with a single to left. Fortunately, the groundball wizard retained his supple wrist, and got Freeman to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to escape with the one-run lead intact.

This was gonna be a stressful one, no question about it.

The Dodgers were set on keeping this close, and Brusdar Graterol took over in the eighth. Zach McKinstry pinch-hit for Ibáñez and flew out to start the inning. Torkelson lifted a fly ball to left for the second out, briefly looking like it might have a chance to sneak out, and Jake Rogers grounded out to first to send it to the bottom half.

Foley made quick work of Will Smith on a ground out, and Muncy on a fly out to right, but J.D. Martinez continued to be a real pain to deal with. The former Tiger spanked a little single to center field, and Chris Taylor came on to pinch-run with David Peralta at the plate and trying to avoid his third line drive out of the game. With the lefty at the dish, Hinch made the...let’s say interesting move to bring in Alex Lange.

It did not go well. Taylor promptly stole second, and Peralta flared a slicing fly ball down the left field line that jumped the wall for an automatic double. And then Lange walked Heyward on four pitches. Cool. Cool.

James Outman grounded out to end the inning but the Tigers now really had their work cut out for them.

For the ninth, Dodgers manager Dave Robert turned to lefty Alex Vesia with the biggest threat facing the Dodgers being Kerry Carpenter. It worked. Carpenter lifted a routine fly ball to right, Andre Lipcius pinch-hit for Baddoo and struck out, and Nevin was hunting a first pitch fastball, got it on the outer edge, and popped out.

Le sigh...

Roberts pinch-hit Kolten Wong for Miguel Rojas against Lange to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but he grounded out to third. That just left Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman to get. Yikes. Betts promptly lined a single to center field. Freeman flew out to Meadows in center, and for a minute there was hope. And then Lange hit Will Smith with a breaking ball that got away from him, moving Betts into scoring position. Max Muncy lined a single to Carpenter in right and the throw home was too much on the first base side of home plate for Rogers to make a swipe tag. Instead he had to lunge for the plate just as Betts dove in headfirst. Betts won by a hair, and that was the ballgame.