photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
I was all ready to be upset with this game. I’m not sure when I really braced myself for firm disappointment… probably either after the third error, or after Bobby Seay let in all of the guys Bondo had left on base. C’mon now, that’s like the bloody RECIPE for Tigers failure these days: frustrating errors and a shaky reliever.
If Pudge was not the spark that lit the team’s collective tail on fire in this game, I don’t know what was. Right after Seay had his little… moment, Pudge started the next inning with a home run. The next inning, he TRIPLED. And what a triple it was, all hustle and grit and determination and all those other fun-to-abuse adjectives. Let us remember that Pudge is a) a catcher and b) a catcher who is 78 years old and has been in the league for 70 of those years. And there he was, tearing around the bases like a ballplayer half his age who has not subjected his lower body to, without exaggeration, 17+ seasons of professional catching.
Oh, and the way he came home! Jacque Jones hit a sac fly to Delmon Young. Now, Dmitri Jr. has a pretty darn good throwing arm, and he made a pretty nice throw to the plate. But Pudge had darted back to tag the base and sprinted down the line like the freaking Looney Tunes roadrunner, all legs turning into a circular blur and such. He slid in, clearly and cleanly dragging his hand across homeplate before Mauer could get a glove on him, and up came Pudge, doing his little victory fist thing even before he was off the ground. WHERE IS YOUR ACME ANVIL NOW, WILE E. COYOTE?
OK, it’s not really that Pudge’s performance was the spark that set the rest of the hitters on track for this game; I think the combination of Matt Guerrier and Pat Neshek had more to do with that than any kind of amorphous Team Spirit business (and I KNEW there was a reason I liked Neshek so much). But boy, even as a fan, it’s hard to see that kind of play, by that kind of player, and NOT get excited. I’m sure if it wasn’t THE igniting spark, it was pretty darn close.
Now, not to trod on the happy good feelings or anything, but we do need to talk briefly about the pitching. I’m not even going to get on Bobby Seay for this one; yes, he did not-so-hot, but he’s been relatively effective this year, so he gets a temporary pass (gosh, so easy to be generous when you have a win). No, we need to talk about Bondo.
He managed 6.1 innings this time, so, y’know, that’s better than 6. Or 5. But did you notice what he did again? His first inning was fine, 1-2-3, and his second inning kind of fell apart and made a mess. This is not the first time this season that Bondo has made a very splattery mess all over the second inning. I am beginning to be afraid that Bondo has Serious Issues of some sort.
Either way, we get ourselves a win, and a nice, hard-fought win too, just the kind of thing to rally around and declare a turning point and whatever the Tigers need to tell themselves in order to effectively do it all over again.