The Detroit Tigers came from behind twice to tie the game before finally nailing the Red Sox coffin shut in the bottom of the 11th inning, in what was arguably the most exciting game in Comerica Park since Magglio Ordonez sent the team to the World Series in 2006.
In a game full of heroes (and goats), Alex Avila was the final and most important one. His walk off two-run home run won the game and swept the Red Sox back to Boston, dirty and winless. Of course, locally he’s already known as the titanium catcher, fielding his position day in and day out, and hitting on a consistent basis. Nationally he’s a bit under the radar, perhaps Sunday’s game will show the nation that he’s a bit more than than assistant GM Al Avila’s son.
From the way he takes pitches until he gets the one he wants to drive, to the way he can snag a ball out of the dirt when he is behind the plate, he is a special player to watch and at least a name to remember when you think of the best Tigers players.
Now, I don’t know if Miguel Cabrera thinks “Si or No? Si or No?” every time he steps to the plate. I don’t know if he thought “Si! Mother%#@$%@” when he launched the three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to salvage what would have been a bloody ugly loss. But I can imagine that he does and that makes the meme even more enjoyable.
You see, there is a point where fans become spoiled. They can either be spoiled year after year after year, or within two months it doesn’t matter. The Detroit Tigers have spoiled their fans pretty horribly only three games into the regular season and it’s not even close.
Wait, close to what? I don’t even know, close to not being spoiled? Where is the line between being spoiled and being not spoiled? Being a fan of the Orioles? Of the Reds? Of the Yankees? Whatever the phrase even means, the Tigers have put on an offensive display over the weekend that certain people will come to expect, which is surely going to disappoint as the season wears on.
Now that we have established that the Tigers are cool, hip, and full of #want, let’s step back from the bonfire and let the dulcet tones of kumbaya fade slowly away. We’ve been distracted by this offense and the drama of the first series of the year and it has dulled any immediate concerns about the pitching that has suddenly become suspect. We don’t know how long Doug Fister will be out, we don’t know what kind of year Max Scherzer will have, especially thanks to his performance today. Of course, we don’t know anything anyways. We don’t even know what we will eat for breakfast in the morning, so what are we worried about?
What we do know is what happened today, Sunday, April 8th, and it was quite a bit.
So let’s go back to the bonfire, the music has ended and our bloggers are starting to tell stories. It’d be wise to listen in.
Max Scherzer entered the game Sunday having given up 22 hits and 14 earned runs in 13.1 innings against Boston during his career. So, it shouldn’t exactly be a surprise to hear that he allowed seven earned runs in two and two thirds of an inning on Sunday. His stuff wasn’t the problem. He was consistently hitting 92-93 MPH on the stadium gun with good movement on his fastball and breaking pitches. His issue was his control, which he completely lost after an eight pitch first inning.
The Tigers had led off the bottom of the first with four runs on a leadoff double by Austin Jackson who was moved over to third on a fly ball by Brennan Boesch. Miguel Cabrera singled him home, then Prince Fielder hit a single of his own, the 1000th of his career. Delmon Young struck out and Alex Avila walked to load the bases with two outs, which brought Jhonny Peralta to the plate. The Tigers shortstop doubled all three home and put the Tigers up 4-0.
After the 10-0 shutout the afternoon before, the Tigers had scored 15 unanswered runs since the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday and it didn’t look like the Red Sox we’re anywhere close to competing.
Of course, that’s all before Max Scherzer happened.
David Ortiz led off the top of the second with a full count single that ripped through the over shift on the right side of the infield. Darnell McDonald walked after reaching a full count to put two on with no one out. Ryan Sweeney popped out weakly to third base after falling behind 0-2. Mike Aviles caused the first damage as he hit a two run double on a 1-2 pitch. Scherzer then hit Kelly Shoppach with a pitch after a 1-0 count, although the “hit” part could be subjective: the ball was inside and slightly grazed his jersey on the way into Alex Avila’s mitt.
After a visit to the mound the scrappy and flat out annoying Nick Punto popped up to short on the second pitch of his at-bat, but Jacoby Ellsbury then worked a walk to load the bases. Obviously struggling with his command, Scherzer was helped by Dustin Pedroia, who decided to help the Tigers out by swinging at two obvious balls and ended up striking out with the count 2-2 to end the threat in the second. Scherzer had thrown 51 pitches and gotten six outs.
The Tigers scored another run thanks to a leadoff HBP to Ryan Raburn, an Austin Jackson single and a Miguel Cabrera sacrifice fly. Sure, Scherzer struggled, but it was 5-2 Detroit after two. They still had yet to trail on the young season.
Then…Max Scherzer happened.
With 30,788 in attendance Scherzer proceeded to allow the following to happen, starting with Adrian Gonzalez: Single, double, strikeout, single, single, HBP, sac fly, balk, single.
When Leyland slowly walked to the mound to replace Scherzer with Collin Balester, the Red Sox led 7-5.
The Tigers chipped back. In the bottom of the fourth Raburn, Jackson, and Boesch all singled to lead the inning off and even though Miguel Cabrera bounced into a double play, Raburn and Jackson had scored to tie the game at seven.
Collin Balester, who was making his Tiger debut, pitched 2.1 innings of one hit ball before he gave up a double to Ellsbury in the sixth. He got Pedroia to fly out to right field, but Leyland brought in LHP Daniel Schlereth to face the LHB Adrian Gonzalez, who told him to take his lefty/lefty matchups and shove them somewhere dark as he hit a two run home run on the first pitch he saw.
It was 9-7 Boston.
In the 8th inning Phil Coke took it upon himself to drill Adrian Gonzalez in the side. Both teams were warned as it was likely retaliation, not only because Gonzalez homered a couple innings earlier but because Prince Fielder had been nailed after his second home run yesterday.
In the top half of the ninth inning, the scrappy leadoff hitter, Nick Punto, manufactured a run with an RBI single. There’s little irony in the fact that Punto, noted Tiger killer back in his days with Minnesota, was the only reason the three-run Miguel Cabrera home run didn’t end the game a half inning later.
We touched on the drama of the home run earlier, so I won’t rehash it here. The score remained 10-10 into the 11th inning, when Nick Punto decided to make something happen again. Cody Ross had walked, Mike Aviles had singled, and after Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out, Punto singled Ross home to give the Sox the lead. Dustin Pedroia knocked in Aviles to make it 12-10 and the intense game quickly spelled DOOM for the Tigers.
Then the Boston Red Sox Bullpen happened.
(Man, a lot of stuff “happened” in this wrap.)
Newly acquired reliever Mark Melancon entered the inning to save the game and he managed to get Brennan Boesch to ground out to Adrian Gonzalez.
Miguel Cabrera singled. Of course he did.
Prince Fielder singled. Of course he did.
Then Melancon let one fly to the backstop and Cabrera, while he may be a ballerina on defense, certainly isn’t Dee Gordon on the basepaths, took one look and broke for third base. He made it and stood there with one out.
Delmon Young had a strong at bat, and managed to fly out to center field. Cabrera tagged and scored 12-11.
Then Avila came up and launched an 84 MPH curve ball into the right field bleachers. The Tigers not only won 13-12, the Tigers outscored the Red Sox 26-14 in the series.
Walkoff Box Score Bullets:
- You can’t make too much of Scherzer’s bad performance. He doesn’t pitch well against them historically and the Red Sox had two embarrassing performances to start the season. Toss in the control that pulled a Harry Houdini on him and the recipe card was thus titled “disaster sauce”.
- Players who have struck out more than Austin Jackson this year (who has 3):
- Yoenis Cespedes
- Adrian Gonzalez
- Kevin Youkilis
- Joey Votto
- Matt Holliday
- Mike Napoli
- Jose Reyes
Don’t mock my small sample size, I mock your small sample size of your favorite player.
- Nick Punto seemingly kills the Tigers. Why? I don’t know. He has the most at bats in his career against the Tigers (335) but he’s only hitting .246 in those at bats. He has never hit a home run against them and he only has 22 RBI, but it seems like every time he plays against them he gets that key RBI or hit that spoils a Tigers victory. Today was no different. He had three hits and three RBI in a losing effort (and the Red Sox would have lost a lot faster if he hadn’t played), as he drove in the 10th run of the game for the Red Sox in the top of the ninth inning. Whether or not you think that dynamics of the game would have changed, that run made the three run Cabrera home run a tie game instead of a trip to the showers. Then, in the top of the 11th he drove in the go-ahead run that would have sealed the game for the Red Sox if their bullpen hadn’t collapsed.
- Since Jon Lester left the game on Opening Day, Boston pitchers have allowed 25 runs in 20.1 innings. All to Detroit. Obviously.
- Brennan Boesch finally got his first hit of the year and finished 2-for-6 with an RBI and a run scored. He may be 2-for-15 now, but Boesch is very streaky, and could be feeling comfortable.
- Miguel Cabrera has 8 RBI in 3 games. Last year he didn’t have 8 RBI until the 9th game of the year.
- Duane Below entered the year with 29 innings under his belt and zero big league wins. No, wins aren’t a huge stat, but they’re cool the count and now in 2.2 innings he has 2 and leads Major League Baseball.
- The Tigers are 3-0 for first time since 2004, and just the 2nd time since 1985.