July 29, 2006
Tigers make it 2-0 in crucial series with Twins
This was the one game coming into the series that you had to look at and think W. Not that we couldnâ€™t or wouldnâ€™t win games 1 and 3, it is just that this one looked pretty good.
The Tigers came into tonightâ€™s game here at the HomerDome with another hostile big crowd. I have attended nearly 150 sporting events here at the old dome and nearly 100 of those were baseball and I had never seen it this packed. It was the first time in 14 years that they have had back-to-back 45,000+ crowds.
Nate Robertson came in to tonightâ€™s contest having been given terrible run support for nearly 1 and Â½ seasons from his teammates but he still was one of the Tigers bright spots. He came to tonight with a 9-3 record with a very good 3.70 ERA that made him among the elite in the AL.
I have been to games her at the dome when they had the old â€œhomer hankieâ€™sâ€ working and this team was heading to a World Series title in 1987, and it was good to be back at this place and to have my Tigers in a meaningful, playoff intensity game in July.
The Tigers came out swinging in the bottom of the first. Mags and Guillen both picked up a broken bat RBI and the Tigers took the Twins Radke to a 27-pitch count when the top of the inning was over with the Tigers leading 2-0!
The Tigers came up in the top of the 2nd and Granderson got an RBI sac fly to way deep right center that brought Inge home. Inge had reached base after his double and a sac bunt by Wilson took him to third. The Tigers ended the top of inning up 3-0 and looking good. The good news was that Radke had a 39-pitch count by the end also.
Robertson got the Twins in order thanks to a nice double play ball by Guillen after a walk, and he came right back in the second and shut them down again. He gave up a hit, but that was all and the Tigers had a commanding 3-0 lead after two. Robertson had a pitch count of 27 after 2 but impressively struck out Rabe with a nice fastball to end the inning.
The third was more of the same as the Tigers got Monroe on 2nd and Mags on 1st with no outs. Guillen moved Monroe to third and Mags had a great slide into 2nd that avoided the double play leaving the Tigers with Monroe on 3rd and Guillen on 1st with one out. Dmitri Young came to the plate and a la Grandersonâ€™s long sac in the 2nd took it to the wall; this time to deep left and the Tigers had a 4-0 lead after the top of the third. More impressively was that Radkeâ€™s pitch count was at a huge 51!
Nate came out for the third large and in charge. Tyner got a hit as the first batter but that isnâ€™t the story. Placido Polanco made a great barehanded play but hi throw was not in time. That play however wasnâ€™t consequential as Nate took care of business and the Tigers defense got a quick double play. Nateâ€™s mastery of the Twins continued and he ended the inning with the Tigers still cruising 4-0! Nateâ€™s pitch count after 3 was 43!
The fourth inning started with the Twins dropping Radke and bringing in Kyle Lohse. The result was the same however as with Wilson on first, Granderson jacked one again to deep right, this time unlike in the second inning the ball was one foot longer and he got his 12th homer of the year and it was a two run jack that gave the Tigers now a commanding 6-0 lead and that was how the inning ended!
On his 50th pitch of the game, in the bottom of the fourth, Nate gave Justin Morneau a gargantuan 418â€™ home run with one man on that brought the Twinkies to a 6-2 deficit. Nate however took control and tightened it up not giving the Twins anymore runs that inning. Carlos Guillen however ended the inning with a Gold Glove type diving catch that even got some applause from the hometown Twinâ€™s fans.
The fifth and sixth inning saw both teams bats remain silent but the Tigers defense was nothing short of spectacular. Through six innings Nate was cruising with a pitch count of 80! T
The Twins started the seventh by benching Lohse and bringing in Pat Neshek who silenced the Tigers in the seventh with some heat and great defense. The big sidewinder from Wisconsin confused the Tigers with his sweeping right-handed side arm option.
Nate gave up a two-run jack to Rabe in the bottom of the seventh. The disappointing part is that it was a ball that Marcus Thames the Tigers left fielder had a play on but didnâ€™t even jump. That made the game 6-4 and when Tyner got an infield single that brought the game-tying run to the plate with ZERO outs. That ended Nate's day after a 92-pitch game that had him pitch into the seventh inning. He only made two bad pitches the whole game, both got bombed. Again, Thamesâ€™s lackadaisical defense didnâ€™t help. Into the game came the Tigers version of the Wild Thing, the big gun Joel Zumaya!
Like I said this was playoff atmosphere baseball and these great Minnesota fans know their baseball and watch ESPN. When Zumaya came in they, like the rest of the country stood too their feet so see if the young cannon could stop their heroes trying to fight their way back into the game and keep themselves in the playoff hunt.
The Z man got Bartlett to strike out on a 99 MPH fastball and got Castillo out with a fly to center (but only after two wild pitches that moved Tyner to third) that brought Tyner in to make the score 6-5. He then got Punto to fly out on a 100 MPH fastball and the inning ended with the Tigers still up, and they moved to the eighth.
Dmitri Young got a huge home run to the left field off of Nehsek a 366-foot jack and that brought the lead back to 7-5 and no outs. The inning however provided no further fireworks as Wilson was caught stealing (pickoff) to end the inning. Yes I am not drunk I said Wilson was caught stealing. Let me just go on the record as saying that he would always be caught unless it was a situation that the catcher chose not to make the throw with a runner on third. It may have been a hit and run, but Wilson trying to steal is scary.
Zumaya came out in the eighth throwing the 100+ MPH heat and got two outs right away, but then quickly got runners at first and second. It all ended there however for the Twins when Kubel was mowed down with an 86-MPh slider that should be illegal.
The Tigers did their part in the eighth. Polanco singled and Monroe singled moving Polanco to third. Mags cam up and had a nice sac fly that brought Polanco home and gave the Tigers a nice cushion at 8-5. The Tigers part of the inning ended there however and the Twins came to bat looking for a rally against the Tigers closer Todd Jones.
Looking for a rally and with the crowd cheering them on the Twins tried to rally and Jones made it tough for himself, but in the end, he got his three outs and the save and the Tigers win. Jones gave up a run in the ninth but the one was it and the Tigers won 8-6!
They now move to 70-33 and have an 8 Â½ game lead on the White Sox and a 10 Â½ game lead on the Twins. Props to my man Nate Robertson for the win his tenth and we look forward to tomorrow when Bondo heads to the mound.
I asked Tigers manager Jim Leyland after the game about Pudge, as well as I saw Pudge and he is day to day.