I wasn’t able to watch, or even listen to, most of the Tiger game yesterday because I was at a wedding reception. However, thanks to the miracle of internet capable cell phones I was able to keep abreast of the score for the first five or six innings and learn that the Tigers’ one run over that span came from another Marcus Thames home run.
We were finally on our way home – not that I didn’t enjoy the reception – and listening to the game on the radio when we were almost immediately treated to a leadoff walk for Gary Sheffield and a two run home run by Maggs that put the Tigers ahead 3-2. There was much rejoicing in our car, and I’m pretty sure if my mom had been driving she would have honked the horn.
Conversation in the car picked up quite a bit after the Maggs homer, so I didn’t hear how the A’s first two runners reached the next inning, but I was pretty horrified when I heard they had done so without Verlander getting an out. This again? This soul-killing ritual of giving us a lead to cheer only to rip it out of our chests and snub it on the ground like a cigarette? (Not that you shouldn’t throw your cigarette butts in a proper receptacle.)
But tonight would be different. Bobby Seay would come in to face the left-handed Jack Cust and would strike him out on four pitches despite none of those pitches cracking 78 mph. Actually, with a batter like Jack Cust that was probably precisely why he struck him out on four pitches. After Seay disposed of Cust, Leyland turned to Aquilino Lopez and when I heard Lopez’s name I was not only surprised he was called up, I was surprised he was pitching in a one run game with one out and runners on first and second. But he got Mark Ellis to fly out to Granderson and struck out Mark Ellis.
That’s when something funny happened. When Lopez got the final out of the seventh, I heard “Alright, now Rodney in the eighth and Jones in the ninth and this one’s done” escape my lips. What was this odd sensation? Confidence in a bullpen? How could this be? Rodney had only been back to throw what, three innings, and Todd Jones was well, Todd Jones. Yet here I was wondering if the Yankees were beating Cleveland so we could climb back within a half game. As misguided and naive as my confidence may have been, it sure felt nice.
What was even better was the fact that it turned out not to be misguided. Sure, the Tigers added two more runs a sac fly by Infante and a triple by Brandon Inge, but Rodney and Jones wouldn’t need them. To start the eighth, Rodney got Mark Kotsay out in front of a changeup and all Kotsay did with it was popup to Infante at second. He then disposed of Donnie Murphy with a 96 mph fastball and made fun of him for having a name that made him sound like a teen idol from 1957. The radio guys just didn’t pick up on that because it was so loud and he did it in Spanish. After he struck out Murphy, he did the same to Mike Piazza on a tipped third strike and I would have loved to have seen him come off the mound after doing so.
Rodney is one of the guys who can bring back some of the swagger the Tigers are said to need so badly. I think the need for more swagger or attitude or whatever may be overstated, but I do love when guys on the team I root for show it. For example, when Rasheed Wallace guaranteed the Pistons would win game six against the Pacers in 2004 and then was shown walking off the court and the cameras captured his taunts to the crowd, “I TOLD Y’ALL! I TOLD Y’ALL, (Very bad words)!”…he won a spot in my heart forever.
Anyway, getting back to the game, the Tigers scored two in the bottom of the eighth and Jones came on to retire the top of the A’s order, 1-2-3. That was the game, and I could almost hear a few million fans thinking to themselves that maybe this was the win that would turn it around. Good starting pitching, great work by the bullpen, timely hitting – that could get them on the right track, couldn’t it? Now I’m not being condescending. I can imagine a few million fans doing that because it’s exactly what I was doing…searching for the reason THIS was the game.
But after thinking about it for a while, I realized there’s only way we’ll know the Tigers we saw before the All Star break are back. It will be when they can get a win without us clutching onto it like it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.
–GUEST BLOGGER, Matt