In a game 5 that saw a lot of guts and grit from the Tigers, it may have been the baseball Gods smiling down on the Tigers and helping them along more than anything. With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of 6th inning, and after Justin Verlander got out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the inning, the Tigers caught a break they needed.
After Ryan Raburn led off the bottom of the 6th with a single, Miguel Cabrera and his steadily warming bat came up to face Texas starter C.J Wilson. Cabrera grounded a ball down the 3rd base line, hitting the bag, and ultimately the ball bounced high enough to soar over the melon of Adrian Beltre. Beltre was in position to turn what would’ve surely been a double play with Cabrera running, but instead was left grasping for a ball that had already gone down the line.
For a team struggling with offense, it was the break they needed, opening the flood gates to the tune of 4 runs by 4 consecutive batters.
I would like to think of the lucky bounce from the baseball Gods as a reward more than anything. I don’t think the Tigers, or any other team for that matter, could possibly show more determination or resiliency than they have. It is littered all throughout their banged up roster right now, and tonight it started with Justin Verlander.
Verlander may have not been on his “A” game on Thursday evening, but his performance was the epitome of a bulldog. Verlander stuck around and battled long enough to throw a whopping 133 pitches, but he was only doing what was needed. His back end of the bullpen was gone for the night with Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit having pitched 3 consecutive days, showing big time guts of their own. Verlander’s performance may have helped save the team for one more game, but he certainly didn’t do it alone.
Showing some guts of their own, Alex Avila and Delmon Young both homered in the game, Young in fact homered twice. It’s been well documented that Alex Avila has struggled at the plate in the playoffs. Avila has been playing on a bum knee, after playing a season in which he played in 141 games. Fighting through the pain and the fatigue, Avila homered in 3rd to get the Tigers power display going and tying the game 1-1 after falling behind early. His other brother in injured arms, Delmon Young, came up in the fourth and hit a solo homer to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
Delmon Young, struggling with an oblique strain, and frankly looking terrible the last couple games, had the biggest day of all the Tigers hitters. After the solo homer in the fourth inning, Young had the big blow in the 6th inning that took the lead from 4-2 to 6-2, giving the laboring Verlander some cushion to work with.
Often overlooked and often ridiculed by the Tigers fans, Ryan Raburn has had a good series showing his resiliency as a player and person. Raburn is hitting .333 for the Tigers in the playoffs, and drawing a bunch of walks as well. No hit in the series may have been bigger than his add on home run against Koji Uehera in the 7th. It gave the Tigers a five run cushion and put them out of grand slam distance, or should I say Nelson Cruz distance?
We can’t talk about guts without talking about Victor Martinez, he of the bad back. Victor did something I thought I would never see from him at this point, and that was hitting a triple in the 6th inning, driving in Raburn and Cabrera for two big runs. It also provided Delmon Young with a base runner for his all important two run homer.
It is just one win and the Tigers are still down 3-2 in the series, but they way this team battles, nobody can say that they are out of it. If they could get it to game 7, I like their chances with Doug Fister on the mound. First things first though, Max Scherzer and the boys will have to take care of business on Saturday. The good thing is our big hitters are starting to come through in big moments, and our ace saved our bullpen and got them much needed rest.
Whether you believe the lucky bounce off the 3rd base bag was of some sort of divine intervention, or just plain dumb luck, it helped give Tigers fans and the players what they were looking for, a game 6.
Nothing would surprise me at all with this group of Tigers, but at the very least, I know they will go down fighting.
It’s not over yet.