Someone give Max Scherzer a bear hug from Tiger Nation, please. After the last three performances from the Tigers’ vaunted staff (J.V. 8 runs in under 3, Anibal 5 runs in under 3 & Fister 4 runs in under 5) many fans were doing a deodorant check heading into the first of two against the… yep… AL Central leading Indians. Though his first inning did nothing to seal our collective TUMS bottles, Max put this outing on cruise control soon after, retiring 22 straight batters with a mix of stuff that would make Tesla proud. Even his new-ish curve ball was electric tonight, folks. With a tired bullpen and a sensitive fan base in dire need of a boost, Max delivered a statement performance that slides him neatly into “ace” status for the time being. (Justin will be back. I anticipate a vengeful performance tomorrow.) And if it weren’t for the “handshake of death” after the 8th, I think we would have seen Scherzer’s first – yeah, really his first – career complete game. Leyland’s agent has Metamucil on his speed dial for an endorsement, right? (The man is damn consistent in this situation.)
So what else happened at Progressive tonight besides a dominant performance by Scherzer and the heart breaking (has anyone created that sarcasm font yet?) absence of Nick Swisher? (Kidding aside, congrats on the baby to the Swisher fam. Now we can go back to the fun making.)
Well, the Indians scored their lone run in the first on a sac-fly by the man taking over for papa Swish in the cleanup spot – Michael Brantley, who was making his first career appearance in the 4 hole. For Indians fans, the only other highlight of the night (IMO) was the Cavs sneaking into the #1 spot in the lottery (15.6% odds after finishing w/the 3rd worst record) where they’ll hopefully grab what I think is a bean-poled bust waiting to happen… Oops, basketball. I digress and apologize.
After getting shut out through five in what was an over-shadowed nice outing for Corey Kluber (3 ER over 6 1/3 with 8 K’s), the Tigers came alive in the 6th on a 409ft, bat-flippin-fun home run by Country Time (a new nickname I’m trying on for Andy Dirks). This was followed by yet another Miggy-bomb to dead center (410 feet) that begs for a moment of silence to soak in what we are seeing out of number 24 this year.
…….. (shhhh, Singing Hot Dog Man, those are moment of silence dots)
This guy. I mean, what can I say? Is there a hyperbole-only thesaurus? ‘Cause Imma need one if Cabrera keeps making it look this easy. He’s playing tee-ball while the rest of the league watches in awe.
Following the Dirks solo and Cabrera’s two-run frickin’ laser beam, the Tigers ended the top of the 6th on three strike outs with a VMart single to right sandwiched in between. Martinez had a nice night (3-5), hitting to all fields and picking up the slack for Prince Fielder, who had four downright embarrassing strikeouts before padding the lead in the 9th with a nice base hit. More on that later.
Don Kelly fans (yes, they exist and they don’t eat gluten or stay up past the witching hour) were given a special treat tonight when their boy was shifted to his “natural position” in CF for the bottom half of the 6th inning. Scherzer got a quick 1-2-3 and we moved onto the 7th.
The top half of the 7th inning turned into another potential BHOTP (Best Hitter on the Planet; doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but still) moment before a ballsy Cody Allen made Miggy look human… if only for a minute… with a 2 on, 2 out K. Cabrera is now 0-4 career, with 3 strikeouts against Allen, who is busy editing his iMovie on how to not look silly against Miguel. Facing a guy who was hitting .518 with RISP up to that point, he might get more than a few downloads after his last 4 matchups. Allen went on to fan 3 straight Tigers in the 8th, giving still-hopefully Indians fans something to cheer about. Allen’s feat was even more impressive, considering the meat he cut: Miggy, Prince (who looked SILLY chasing 2 pitches at or above his helmet), Victor and J-Honny.
The bottom of the 8th started with Max at 106 pitches and Grandpa Giambi at the plate. After a quick Just For Men® commercial break, Scherzer sat Giambi down on a 97mph heater. He then proceeded to strikeout the side. At this point, many Tigers fans on the Twitter machine, and an apparently distracted Rod Allen, were anticipating a well-earned complete game for #37. But, handshake of death.
Entering the top of the 9th with a 3-1 lead, I overheard “this one’s in the bag” from no Tigers fan, anywhere. Because Potato.
Heck, even after Dirks pulled out the country lumber to drive in Alex Avila and Prince saved face with a bases-loaded RBI single to score Infante, I was still on the verge of nervous ticks knowing what was ahead.
In the bottom of the 9th, Papa met expectations and joined Jimmy on the Mucinex label with the old “at-least-one-base-runner” we’ve come to expect, via a line drive up the middle from Michael Bourn. After a pop-foul out by Kipnis, Valverde plunked Asdrubal Cabrera and set off a chorus of Tigers fan moans I heard all the way up in Evanston, IL. Benoit stood up in the pen but never saw the mound. With one down and runners on 1st & 2nd, the remaining 659 Indians fans were on their feat to the beat of some obnoxious tune while visions of melting Potatoes went wild in my head. Then Papa did Papa. We may even have seen a split or two thrown in there as Valverde managed to induce a fly out and weak pop-up to mercifully seal a 5-1 victory.
The Tigers end the night 1.5 back of the Indians with Justin on the hill tomorrow against Ubaldo Jimenez. Tigs won, I’m happy and I leave you with a few quick Lemons on a night where the Lemonade flowed like the salmon of… nah. That’s enough:
- Oh, Prince. Please look at the tape. After shaking your head a few times, please never again swing at two balls in a row where the catcher is fully standing before a pitch that ends up above your head. K, thanks.
- Don Kelly is no longer batting 1.000 against Kluber.
- Avila still can’t hit.
- 22 straight batters retired by Max Scherzer after a somewhat tough 1st inning and a visit from Jeff Jones.
- That counts for at LEAST two glasses of “Lemonade”, right?
- Martinez with encouraging hits to center, left & right tonight. He’s a pro, I’m less worried.
- Prince did come through with a nice padding RBI in the 9th. It’s okay, big guy. You’re still a beast!
Thanks for reading, and GO TIGS!