Tigers trying to claw their way to the top

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Sweeping the Twins this weekend definitely helped with that lofty goal. The Red Sox beat the Yankees on Saturday (huzzah!) but lost today (dear Derek Jeter– we hate you. Love, everyone minus Yankee fans), meaning all that Tiger winning only moved them up to 2.5 games behind the Yanks. This is a mathematically surmountable gap, of course, but only if the Yankees start losing and the Tigers keep winning.

Coming up, the Tigers are at Cleveland, come home to face the Royals and the Twins, then finish up the season in Chicago against the Wrong Sox. The Yankees play the Orioles and the Blue Jays, then finish the year on roadtrips to Tampa Bay and Baltimore. I would say that the Yankee schedule is a whole heck of a lot easier than the Tiger schedule, so we’re going to have a hard time snagging that wild card, even though the Yankees have a relatively small-seeming lead.

But what the hell. Today was a gem. Todd Jones got his 300th save and, in the grand Todd Jones tradition, it was a nail-biting knee-quavering rollercoaster of a save. But a save is a save, and we learned long ago that it does no good to ask Jonesy to be pretty about it. Highly adorable: he made the entire team stick around after the game so that he could get a big group photo. Did I say ‘awwwww’ at the TV? Yes. Yes I did. Was the move 100% genuinely aww-worthy? Yes. Yes it was.

Jonesy was feeling pretty good about the game, and probably pretty good about the season, as a result of his personal milestone. Witness his quote after the fact:

“We’re Tin Cup right now… We’ve got a 260-yard approach shot to win the Open, and we’ve got to stick it on the green.”
MLB.com article

I have no idea what that means (golf metaphor= blank stare), but it sounds like he’s pumped up for this last stretch. Check this out:

Jones recovered and got a routine game-ending grounder, his milestone save and the sweep. And the Tigers got their 260-foot golf shot.

“Seven iron,” Brandon Inge said.
MLB.com article

Todd Jones and Brandon Inge are GOLF METAPHORING AT ONE ANOTHER. I don’t even know what to make of this, but wow. Wow.

The Twins, perhaps desperate to win this one, resorted to distraction tactics before the game. I guess you probably didn’t see this if you weren’t watching the pregame show, but there was some sort of arcade baseball video game that they had wheeled out onto the field, and FSN showed Virgil Vasquez and Justin Verlander playing their little hearts out on it. This was a clearly calculated move on the part of the Twins. They know full well that our team is filled with overgrown manchildren who consider video games to be the very height of entertainment, so by baiting them with flashing lights and dinging bells they perhaps hoped to turn the Tigers’ minds from real baseball to the virtual version, thus leaving the Twins with a free path to sweep avoidance.

Not tempted by the siren call of video games (or perhaps he just couldn’t kick Verlander and Vasquez off it), Jair Jurrjens threw a no-hitter for 5.1 innings. Definitely not Verlander-like, but when you consider how early Bondo would get hit around (and Jurrjens is in Bondo’s spot right now), he looked pretty good. I’m sure the fact that the Tigers started scoring early, with one run in the first and two runs in the messy second, helped to ease his mind.

This is the sort of situation where you start wondering how a kid like him would do in the playoffs, if things go well and it comes to that. It’s not like Tigers minor leaguers are unused to winning (congrats, by the by, to West Michigan, who won the Midwest League championship again), but we’re talking about later season games here, with significantly colder air and significantly more pressure. I’m not kidding when I say that I reckon the Tigers’ minor league championships help incoming Tigers prepare a bit better for big league playoffs, but there’s still no telling how someone as young as Jurrjens will take to it.

Hopefully he will have watched the World Series last year and will have, in preparation, spent some time boning up on his fielding skills.

Saturday’s game was improbably won in part thanks to a Pudge Rodriguez RBI walk, which caused the heavens to open up and rain shining disbelief down upon the Metrodome. Most of us, I’m sure, never thought that once in our lifetime would we get to see such a thing. It was not entirely unlike being an avid birder your entire life and suddenly, unexpectedly, catching a glimpse of the ivory-billed woodpecker. You knew it might be technically possible, but you never really believed it until it actually happened.

“Nobody can say he doesn’t take walks,” winning pitcher Nate Robertson said.
MLB.com article

This season, Pudge has a grand total of 9 walks in 465 at-bats. So, Nate, I think people can safely say that he doesn’t take walks. But my goodness, what a time to choose to buck the trend.

A couple random items I can’t smoothly fit in anywhere, so you get them unsubtly jammed in to end the post, you lucky reader, you.

– At one point during Sunday’s game, FSN showed Mike Rabelo sitting on the bench, industriously making one of those cup-and-string telephones with a couple of Gatorade cups and some random stringy stuff. They never followed up on this, leaving us all to wonder whom he was trying to speak with. Guys down at the other end of the dugout? Coaches? Mars?

Billfer has reminded me of something else from Tigers Bloggers Night, something I meant to mention (I even wrote it down on my scorecard!), but somehow forgot. Fernando Rodney’s entrance music that night? “You’re the One That I Want,” from Grease. We all straight-up DIED.

Probably Fernando did not pick that music himself, but if he had, my respect for him would go through the roof.

Ian was in USA Today on the strength of his Tiger blogging skillz. I very grudgingly point this out, since SB Nation and MVN are dire enemies, and we have sworn to fight to the death.

– I have a surprise for you, the reader, coming up soon. It’s a review of something very fun. I would have had it up sooner, but who would have thought coming back to school would involve so much time-consuming social muckery? Craziness.

– Don’t forget to check out the post and photos from Tigers Bloggers Night, if you haven’t already.


6 responses to “Tigers trying to claw their way to the top

  1. Pudge is magic. That’s all there is to it.

  2. Pudge Takes a walk. Tigers sweep the Twins twice in one season, away from the Copa. Rollercoaster Jones gets his 300th save. Curtis joins the 20-20-20-20. Maggs bats beyond our comprehension. PUDGE TAKES A WALK IN A CRUCIAL GAME-TYING SITUATION. The myth of Carlos Guillen’s ears continues.
    These are the makings of a special season, post-season or no-posteason (POSTSEASON, Please!)

  3. A rookie starter making his first major league start beats Johan Santana (well, not technically).
    Basically, that right there was a sign of something.

  4. You’re the One That I Want? Ahahahahaha. I die.

  5. Magically opposed to taking walks as a matter of usual course, maybe.
    tiff, after the first Cleveland game I’m not so sure. But it would be nice if the specialness would rear its head again.
    Adam, hey, Mr. Jurrjens has had his starts before this! And honestly, it’s not so weird. The Twins didn’t have much (any? too tired to check) experience against him. The pitcher usually has the advantage in those situations.
    ivan, it was incredible.

  6. […] JKelleyRice wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt […]

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