On a warm summer night in Detroit, confidence was high with the lowly Twins in town and the 4-10, 5.12 ERA sportin’ Mike Pelfrey on the mound against the Tigers powerful lineup. There’s a funny saying about baseball and expectations. Please tweet it at me when you find it.
Porcello got through the first inning on 14 pitches with two strikeouts – one a swinging K against Josh Willingham. Ricky reached his 100th K of the season in this inning. His career high was 107 coming into the game.
No runs no hits, none left on for the Tigers in the bottom half, as Pelfrey had an even quicker first inning, getting the Tigers on just 11 pitches.
Justin Morneau led of the 2nd with an opposite field line drive for a base hit. Porcello then got behind Ryan Doumit 3-0 and allowed a seeing-eye ground ball single to right to put 2 on with no outs. With Joe Mauer a late scratch, ex-Tigers prospect Wilkin Ramirez filled in (he played left with Willingham DH’ing) and struck out on a nice 92 mph two-seamer, down and in for the first out of the inning. A chopper to Cabrera at third off the bat of Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe started a 5-3 double play to end the inning and the Twins first threat.
Mike Pelfrey was hitting the strike zone hard in this game with a 94 mph fastball and a lot of first pitch strikes. The first Tiger to take advantage was orange hot Victor Martinez (.329 BA for August but just .269 over the last 7 days coming in) with a line drive to right. Andy Dirks then tried the least lovable form of creativity to most Tigers fans – namely the bunt – to get on base and move Victor up. He was successful in the advancing of VMart and almost beat catcher Ryan Doumit’s arm to first, falling just a step short of the throw. With Victor on 2nd, two down and Omar Infante coming to the plate, I was ready for Pelfrey’s struggles in this situation (2 out, RISP – .333 BA against) to kick in. Especially considering Omar’s .391 BA in August (though that was only over 23 ABs.). T’was not meant to be however. Infante flew out to another ex-Tiger, Clete Thomas, for out number three.
Through two innings, the score was tied at zero and the Twins had 2 hits to the Tigers 1.
The top of the 3rd barely happened, with Porcello needing only 7 pitches to sit the Twins 8, 9 & 1 hitters.
The Tigers appeared to have adjusted to whatever Pelfrey was doing right in the bottom of the 3rd, reaching base on two opposite field line-drive singles after Brayan Pena’s strikeout to start the inning. Torii Hunter came to the plate hitting .294 with RISP and fouled a few off before lowering his average with a GIDP to end the Tigers threat. Three innings, two runners left on 2nd base.
4th inning (grab a snack & strap in):
The Twins got away with one (albeit a close one) in the 4th when with Chris Herrmann infield single that appeared to be an out on the replay. I doubt if a challenge would be made on this call when the rule changes come into affect next year, as it was truly a hard call with one camera angle showing Porcello reaching the bag just before Herrmann and one somewhat questionable. After striking out Willingham for the second time, Porcello gave up a short 2-run golf-style homer to Justin Morneau on a pitch that I’d say would be a swinging strike or a no-doubt ball more often than not. Morneau swatted a sinking change-up nearly off the plate and into the right-center seats to put the Twins up 2-0. Doumit hit a grounder to first for the second out before Jose Iglesias nearly made another flying #1 Web Gem play from deep to his right side. Iglesias gathered and flung a Wilkin Ramirez grounder to first quicker than I’ve ever seen a shortstop do and it still wasn’t quite enough to get the speedy Ramirez. But wow, I love watching this kid work the glove. Jhonny may not have even made an attempt at this ball and Iglesias nearly did magic with it. A semi-rough 4th then got rougher on a Trevor Plouffe double down the line to Andy Dirks. Wilkin Ramirez would score from first on the hit, thanks to a somewhat weak turn and throw by Dirks that left Cabrera with no chance at what might have been a relay gun to home. The Twins went ahead 3-0 with Porcello at 64 pitches… this after he breezed through a 1-2-3 third. Ricky needed 35 pitches in the fourth to stop the bleeding, getting Clete Thomas on strikes for the 3rd out and leaving the inning with a 71-pitch total. At this point, it looked like the Tigers wouldn’t be adding another notch to their AL leading Quality Start belts (85 QS coming in).
In serious need of some runs, Detroit’s hitting hero worked a count well before grounding out to third but the much maligned (of late, by some impatient fans and radio personalities) Prince Fielder was up to the challenge, jacking his 2nd home run in the last 7 days on a hanging change from Pelfrey. This one was a no-doubter, drop-the-bat Fielder classic to right. Keep ‘em coming, big fella. One down, Twins 3, Tigers 1. Andy Dirks followed a Martinez pop out with a two out walk, bringing Infante to the plate for his 2nd at bat. A hopeful drive to center was scooped by Clete Thomas to end the inning with Detroit still down two.
Porcello started the 5th with the dreaded leadoff walk to shortstop Pedro Florimon. In true Twins form, Minnesota got another face-palming infield hit by Brian Dozier off the glove of a diving Cabrera (he got up gingerly but stayed in the game) before moving the runners up with a sac bunt, leaving 2 men in scoring position with one out. Rick’s command continued to struggle as he almost hit Josh Willingham on the fourth ball of his at bat, bringing the skipper out of the dugout and Phil Coke onto the mound. Insert Pepto-Bismol ad here. (Kidding aside, brands like Pepto, Tums and Advil should target sports fans at a local level and trigger an email, banner ad, tweet or something when certain pitchers or pinch hitters come in. Just a thought. I digress while you digest.) Facing the lefty Morneau with the bases juiced and one out, Coke served up a flat fastball for a hard hit gapper to right center giving Morneau his 3rd and 4th RBIs of the night and putting the Twins up 5-1. Lefties are now hitting .290/.312/.406 against Coke (thanks, @Stareagle). Not exactly a “lefty specialist”, eh? Sigh.
Few thought the first five innings would play out like this. Fewer should think they have any chance of predicting baseball. Leyland elected to intentionally walk Doumit and bring in Jeremy Bonderman to face Wilkin Ramirez with (still only) one out and the bases again loaded. An absolute shot off Wilkin’s bat was stabbed by the pleasingly quick-reflexed Cabrera at third for the 2nd out, bringing up Trevor Plouffe. Bonderman faired much better than Phil Coke (shocker) and struck out Plouffe, leaving 3 on base for the Twins and letting us get to some much needed mid-inning venting. Thankfully for our readers, Twitter is the main vent for the airing of my Tigers frustrations. The home team came to bat in the bottom of five trailing 5-1.
Pelfrey got Pena to pop out for the first out before letting one slip away to Jose Iglesias who, despite hitting just .220 in the 2nd half, was up to .268 for August coming into the game. The pitch hit Iglesias high on the lead shoulder but he’d jog to first unharmed. With Austin Jackson up and one out, we were treated (sarcasm font) to the Tigers’ second GIDP of the night. Inning over, Twins still ahead by four.
Bonderman came back out for the 6th, facing number 8 hitter Clete Thomas to lead off the at bat. Thomas, hitting .224 on the year (yes, Dirks is barely but still better), grounded to Infante for the first out. With one down, the decidedly power-deficient Pedro Florimon (he had 8 HR coming in; his last on July 23rd) sent one over the head of Torii Hunter and into the right field seats to give Minnesota a 6-1 lead on their 9th hit of the game. And now it’s time for just the highlights… Bondo walked a few more but got out of the inning with only the solo shot for damage.
I find myself having to remind us all how good the team still is and how high their odds of making the playoffs are far too often in my recaps lately, it seems. Anyway.
Torii got a triple in the bottom of the 6th, putting a smile on his face and giving Comerica something to cheer about for the first time since Prince’s solo shot. That brought up the MVP, who was hitting .437 with RISP coming into the at-bat. Why am I still giving you essentially a play-by-play? Call it the Miggy effect. I don’t know. Moving on. There would be no legend-grooming tonight from mighty Miguel, unfortunately. Another grounder to third for out #1. Prince then got his 2nd RBI of the night on a fielder’s choice to Plouffe at third. It was Fielder’s 87th RBI of the year and the Tigers were down four. The Twins own rangy shortstop tracked down a tough grounder from VMart and made a nice throw to end the inning. Twins 6, Tigers 2.
With Cleveland still back 6.5 in the division and the Tigers owning them in every way this year, it would be more than a “stretch” (7th inning joke) to say anyone should have been worried about our boys at this point, despite the disappointing outcomes thus far on this Tuesday in the D. I was so unworried that I almost wanted Cleveland to hit CJ Wilson around a bit just to get his pant… I mean um, hair in a bunch. Okay on with the recap. Bondo was back on the bump and got the first two outs with no trouble. He nearly gave up a double to Plouffe but was saved by a nice scoop from Andy Dirks in left for the third out.
Random break for my favorite tweet of the night, courtesy of @PhilCokesBrain:
Kick-started by Brayan Pena’s surprising 7th infield hit of the year, the Tigers made a little more noise with their 7th at bat. A “#TwinsHit” bloop by Iglesias put him on base with Pena and drove Pelfrey out of the game. Pelfrey threw a lot of strikes and worked an efficient 6 2/3, giving up just 2 earned on 7 hits and 1 walk. Son of a Brewer (his dad used to be a manager for them) Jose Roenicke could not hold Austin Jackson down (he was 0-2 with a K before this at bat) as he drove a 2-out RBI single to center, scoring Pena. The inning was ended on a pop foul to right with the Tigers now trailing 6-3.
Clete Thomas is not a good hitter. Don’t let the home run fool you – neither is Pedro Florimon. Good Al Al reminded us of that, striking out both to start the 8th. Alburquerque pitched a 1-2-3 inning. So grab a drink before his next appearance.
Cabrera started off the bottom half with his first hit of the night, a single to right off of Jared Burton. Prince popped a can of corn that fans at CoPa got way too excited about for no reason. Victor flashed that pretty swing for a single to center. Doumit let one get by him behind the plate. Dirks battled and hit a blooper to center that Clete juuuuust snagged with a diving snow cone (even a healthy Miggy probably would not have scored on this, as it was a tough situation to judge). And Omar Infante came up with runners at 2nd & 3rd and two outs. Nothing good happened. No enthusiastic puns were written. Two more potential runs were left on base. Woof.
With the Tigers trailing 6-3 to start the 9th, Bruce Rondon gave fans a preview of his potential 2014 closer stuff, getting the first two outs with a mix of crazy heat and a filthy slider. Then Justin freaking Morneau happened again. At least there was no one on this time and it was only a single. The Twins first baseman went 4-5 on the night with 4 RBI. Suffice it to say, he was the player of the game. Rondon rendered his single moot with a K (his 2nd) to end the top half.
Oh boy. Now Brayan Pena is hurt. He’d leave the game after delivering a lead off single in the 9th, limping to first on a gimpy right leg. Hopefully Avila’s test warm up and drills today went well. Iglesias beat the double play by a step on his grounder to 2nd, bringing up Jackson with one out. Ajax sent another grounder to 2B for the second out. Once again, the Twins did not turn two. With the bat of doom on deck, the usually rock solid Glen Perkins got a little nervous, getting behind 2-0 on Torii and eventually walking him on 5 pitches. OH BOY. Here comes Miggy. Everyone and their brother’s mother’s uncle were asking if Gardenhire would IBB Cabrera at this point. And, despite how crazy that might usually sound, NO ONE could have blamed him. The tension here was exhilarating. Not sure what else to say.
If I weren’t so deflated, I’d insert a picture of Eor here. Somewhere in baseball heaven, an angel lost its wings. It turns out Miguel Cabrera cannot always save the day. I know, I was shocked too. Good thing we get enjoy his magical bat for two more months and will not hesitate to get this excited, yet again, the next time he steps to the plate with two on and two out in the ninth.
Miggy is still amazing beyond words (but please, please, please get healthy man) and the Tigers are juuuuust fine. You win some, you lose some. Hopefully, in my next recap, we’ll get to enjoy the fruits of the former.
Final score: Twins 6, Tigers 3
Thanks for reading and g’night.