Uno. Eins. Number one with a bullet? The question coming into the Monday Nighter: would the Tigers have pushed that “Magic Number” down to a single digit…by night’s end? It certainly boded well for the boys from the “D” that they would miss Joe Mauer in this series! Mr. Head & Shoulders was still foggy enough, that the Twins officially shut down his season, just hours before the game. So the flake-free one and his A.L’s 3rd best batting average, not even in uniform. The lineup the Twins did dress, wasn’t exactly “commercial-worthy”…to say the least. The names on this gaggle of replacements (and I don’t mean the cool alternative band, also from Minnesota) would frighten exactly no one. Combined with the fact that Minny was trotting out Mike Pelfrey, with his eyesore of a 5-13 record and 5+ E.R.A…you had to love Detroit’s chances this evening.
Now we just needed Verlander to be the “usual” JV, that has tormented the Twinkies throughout his career. Old numba 35, comes in 14-7 with a 3.23 E.R.A all time against his division foes. Did anyone in Detroit think that Justin would still be looking for his 14th victory, with a week left in the season? (If you said “yes”…please collect the pool money.)
Low and behold, the no-hit kid starts just like we hoped he would. Two strikeouts in the 1st, fans the side in the 2nd…repeats that again in the 3rd!! Really, if you were watching something else at the start, 8 of the first 9 Twins’ outs…were via the WHIFF!! 4 innings in, and as dominant as JV had been, Pelfrey looked unspectacular, yet matched Justin zero for zero-on the scoreboard.
Verlander was looking downright “Ver-licious”…punching out two more Twins, and was sitting on a gaudy 10 K’s through the end of 4. Now if only we could locate those Tiger bats. I’m pretty sure they packed some to bring on the road trip, right?? Cue the tape to the top of the 5th. Santiago singles, Jackson singles and Hunter hits a double of the “ground-rule” variety, and the Tigs plate the first run of the game. Halfway point: Det 1, Min 0.
(Boy is it nice not to have to watch Tiger games from that esthetically brutal Metrodome anymore!) Justin got himself out of a tiny jam in the 5th, pocketing another “K” along they way…his 11th. After former Tiger Clete Thomas doubled in the 6th, JV blew away Florimon to end the threat. That 12th strikeout of the game, meant he had victimized every batter in the lineup…at least once. Impressive.
Right on command, Torii doubles again, Miggy singles him home. Prince singles in his at-bat, Victor doubles Cabrera in. Dirks gets the intentional walk, and ex-Tiger, Casey Fien’s night in relief ends abruptly. (Lisa Marie or) Ryan Pressly comes out of the pen, and gets a GIDP to end the half inning, but Tigers 3, Twins 0.
Justin is finished after 6 innings. Insert Smyly, but just for two batters…and two base hits. Enter Al Al, a nice and tidy strikeout/fly out/strikeout later, Minnesota’s “rally”…extinguished.
With the bottom of the 8th upon us, things get dicey. Jose Veras takes over his customary set up role, and promptly strikes out a Twin, for the 15th time in the game. Suddenly Minny goes walk-double-double, it’s now 3-2 and everybody in Detroit’s drawers get a little bit tiiighter! Out comes Jimmy Leyland, who dials up Benoit, hoping for one of those cool, 80′s style 5-out saves. Retro!
…and we can see why those are a dying breed. 1st Minnesota batter of the ninth inning and Dozier crushes a (Golden) gopher ball:( One swing of the bat, and Benoit experiences his first blown save of the year. Then he retires the next 3 hitters, and we can now settle in for some extra baseball (at no additional charge.)
Tigers 10th…quiet. Twins 10th…40% tense, but ultimately harmless.
Tigers 11th…innocuous. Twins 11th: Dozier hit (I’m really starting to dislike this guy !) The bittersweet strikeout/wild pitch 3rd strike moves him to 2nd. Then the backup catcher named Pinto (not Mauer) knocks in the game winner. Pinto…really? That’s a mediocre bean, a bad fraternity name or a forgettable model Ford…not an extra-inning hero.
The Tigers fall to an ugly 6-12 (.333) in extras, and if they get caught down the stretch…circle that statistic.
So there it is. Tiger pitchers strike out a total of 17, yet lose tonight…to the Island of Misfit Toys.