I’m a pretty optimistic Tiger fan, but I have to admit I was surprised when they came through with four runs in the ninth off J. J. Putz. I know he hasn’t been quite right this year, and he certainly hasn’t been as dominant as he was in the recent past. He sounded like he had pretty good stuff the night before, though, and the feeling I had was telling me the Tigers were going to have to win this one in extra innings.
After he struck out Pudge and had Inge down to a 1-2 count, my feeling of “get ’em next inning” was only that much more certain. Then the strangest thing happened. Three straight balls. Well, this was interesting and it brought up Curtis Granderson. Now I was starting to get conflicting images of Curtis turning on a fastball and trotting around the bases, or maybe tripling in Brandon. But the other feeling was still probably winning 70/30 or so.
Curtis then laced a ball down the line, and before I could yell woo hoo it was determined to be foul. A couple pitches later he roped another ball down the line and again it was foul. I love Curtis, but when he has two strikes against a pitcher with a splitter like Putz’s, my mind starts to wander down the lineup to figure out who else might come through. As I was thinking, “Polly or Carlos?” Granderson ripped a splitter to the right of Miguel Cairo – Seattle’s own white flag – for a single that got Inge to third base.
It all happened pretty quickly after that. Polly dropped a bloopish single into right that looked a lot like the one Jeremy Reed had run down earlier in the game, but this time it found its way to the turf. The Tigers had the lead. After a Guillen ground out, more surprises were on the way as Beltre couldn’t handle a sharp grounder by Maggs and then just missed throwing him out at first. (Did anybody else feel like earlier in the game Curtis was safer than Maggs on this play?)
Another run in, and I’m starting to breathe easy. Then Miggy came up and doubled down the line and it was pretty clear things were going the Tigers’ way. I mean we love Miggy and all, but I just didn’t expect the guy who’s been pressing most of the season to come through with that hit. Incidentally, did everybody notice Ibanez fumbling that hit in the corner? He looked like Rocky chasing the chickens out there.
At this point I was so happy, and the game seemed so well in hand I let my dog out to pee. He has less faith in the Tigers than I do, and had started whining after Pudge’s strikeout. Yeah, yeah, I know Todd Jones gave up a two-run homer and the tying run came to the plate and that was a little too nerve-racking considering the inning the Tigers had just posted. But this was a good win in a game that looked like it would get away from the Tigers a few different times.
Not the least of which was when in the eighth Jeremy Reed was able to reach second in a tie game with no outs on a single and an error by Maggs. After Cairo bunted him over to third with Zach Miner on the mound, this was another instance of my mind wandering toward pessimism and trying to figure the odds of them getting the run back in the ninth. But here, too, I was treated to being wrong. Betancourt hit a soft liner to Inge. What’s this feeling brewing? It feels…like…hope. Leyland had Miner walk Ichiro, and Jose Lopez made an easy out to end the inning.
It’s not been an easy season to be a Tiger fan, but this was a fun one to watch. Before I let you go, I know people probably don’t really come here for analysis so I try to steer away from that part of my brain but I can’t help but say I was encouraged to see Jeremy a) hitting 94 on the gun, b) striking out five with no walks and c) finally using that fastball with armside run to go inside on a lefty. That pitch he used to strikeout Ichiro is what I’ve been waiting for just about all season from him.
Enjoy your Monday, and don’t worry. Sam will be back soon. Oh, and you might want to take a nap at some point during the day since the Tigers won’t be going until 10:05 tonight.
–GUEST BLOGGER, Matt