Many have said all along that the fate of the Tigers’ season will be reliant on the contributions of players not named Verlander, Cabrera, or Fielder. They’re right. As it turns out, tonight’s 5-1 victory was a shining example of that.
The contribution of Max Scherzer is not totally a surprise, given that he essentially dominated the month of August. Tonight, however, he took it to another level – 8 innings, 4 hits, 9 strikeouts. It was, without a doubt, one of his best performances in a Tiger uniform. He was never in trouble, and really, the only hitter he had trouble with was, oddly enough, Dewayne Wise, who was responsible for two hits and Scherzer’s lone walk. Other than that, the White Sox never threatened, were almost always behind in the count, and were generally helpless against the Tigers right-hander.
Scherzer’s contribution is nice, but you need some help on offense, too. This, of course, turned out to be a job for Delmon Young and his Victory Mustache. After delivering the game-winning hit last night, Young picked up right where he left off. He tripled off the very top of the wall in left center field in the 5th (which probably would’ve been an inside the park homer if the runner was, well, anyone faster than Delmon Young). He left nothing to chance in the 7th, blasting a homer deep to left. Delmon Young is, indeed, trolling the fanbase.
Of course, the Tigers scored early, too – largely thanks to the bad version of Francisco Liriano. He lasted just four innings, walking seven (one of them intentional). He only allowed three runs on four hits, but it could have been far worse, as the Tigers were unable to turn most of his walks into runs. It was one of those walks that got the Tigers on the board, though, as a leadoff walk to Austin Jackson in the third scored on a triple by Brennan Boesch (yes, it happened). Boesch proceeded to score on Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single. The Tigers ended up loading the bases in that inning with just one out, but failed to score again and blow the game open – an ongoing theme. Liriano certainly did not pitch well, but he managed to limit the damage just enough to keep his team within shouting distance. Young’s fifth inning leadoff triple ended up chasing him, and it looked like the Tigers would strand that runner too – until debutant Avisail Garcia drove a two out single into center, making it 3-0. Young’s homer made it 4-0, and the Tigers scored again in the ninth against Addison Reed (one of the seven relievers Robin Ventura used on the night) on a triple by Jackson followed by a single by Cabrera – and that was plenty for Scherzer. Jose Valverde pitched the ninth, giving up an obligatory non-save situation run thanks to a Paul Konerko double and an Orlando Hudson triple – but he did close out the victory.
And I didn’t even include the Brennan Boesch walk and the Miguel Cabrera infield single. Strange things happened tonight, folks.
Avisail Garcia does deserve a shout, as he put together a couple solid at bats in his MLB debut, including his aforementioned first major league hit and RBI. He had some adventures in right field in the 9th, but all in all, the youngster – who really does look alarmingly like Miguel Cabrera circa 2003 – had a solid debut.
The Tigers now sit just a game behind Chicago ahead of the much discussed Justin Verlander-Chris Sale battle royale on Sunday night. A win would give the Tigers a share of first place for the first time since July 25.