The Detroit Tigers’ season ended in deflating fashion, but it’s unfair to forget some of the incredible moments this talented team provided fans over the course of this past season. Let’s recall some gems from the regular season:
Apr. 5: Opening Day Walk-Off (audio)
Justin Verlander and Jon Lester squared off in Detroit in a fantastic Opening Day pitcher’s duel. Verlander shut out the Boston Red Sox for eight innings, and the Tigers, after scoring a run in each of the seventh and eighth innings, handed the ball to former Tigers closer Jose Valverde with a 2-0 lead. Valverde, who went a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities in 2011, blew his first of the season, surrendering two runs on three hits and robbing Verlander of a win. But Detroit loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning, and with one away, Austin Jackson delivered a heroic walk-off hit.
Three days later, the Tigers completed their opening series sweep of the Red Sox in a game that will be remembered as one of the most incredible in Comerica Park history. The thriller lasted four hours and 45 minutes, and saw Detroit take a 4-0 lead before Max Scherzer made a quick third-inning charged with seven runs. The Tigers tied the game at seven in the fourth, but found themselves down three when it came time for their final swings. The top of their order dug in to face Alfredo Aceves in the ninth, and three batters in, Miguel Cabrera tied it with a three-run bomb to left. For all that effort, though, Detroit fell behind two runs again in the 11th. They pulled one back on a Delmon Young sacrifice fly, but were down to their last out when their catcher came to bat. With Prince Fielder on first, Alex Avila swung at a two-strike pitch and hit a fly ball that barely cleared the right-field fence to move the Tigers to 3-0 in impossible fashion.
Apr. 16: 131-pitch Complete Game (audio)
The Tigers took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth at Kauffman Stadium, and Justin Verlander took to the mound to finish his gem. But the pesky Kansas City Royals wouldn’t go away, scoring one to cut their deficit in half, then loading the bases with two outs. Verlander resolved to finish what he started despite his pitch count, which had climbed to 125 when the dangerous Alex Gordon strode to the plate. In a 2-1 count, Verlander threw two straight called strikes to Gordon, the last, his 131st pitch, lighting up the radar gun at 100 mph, to end the threat and give Detroit a victory.
Another poor early-season start by Max Scherzer had the Tigers in a 6-0 hole after five innings at U.S. Cellular Field against the Chicago White Sox. Three home runs in a single inning, including three-run shots by Ryan Raburn and Austin Jackson, gave Detroit an unfathomable lead over their division rivals. Shaky Tigers relief pitching allowed the White Sox to bring the winning run to the plate, but the game ended with the ball in Brennan Boesch‘s glove mere feet from the outfield wall.
May 18: Near No-Hitter (video)
In a gorgeous Friday evening game at Comerica Park, Justin Verlander made a bid to become the sixth pitcher of all-time to throw more than two no-hitters. In front of a crowd of 41,661, he held the Pittsburgh Pirates without a hit for 8 1/3 frames before Josh Harrison put an end to the attempt at history with a tantalizingly soft line single into center.
Detroit added to their long list of improbable victories at Comerica Park. That Sunday afternoon, they played the Cleveland Indians to a 5-5 tie after nine innings. In the tenth, Cleveland hit back-to-back home runs off Joaquin Benoit, then added another run to make it 8-5. The Tigers faced the daunting task of scoring three or more off closer Chris Perez. They got five, capped by a two-run walk-off homer by Miguel Cabrera.
Aug. 23: Jackson Dives (video)
The Tigers played the Toronto Blue Jays in Detroit. Justin Verlander threw a brilliant nine innings, and his team scored two eighth-inning runs to stretch the game into extra innings. In the tenth, the Blue Jays put the go-ahead run at second. Anthony Gose, the Toronto batter, turned and golfed a ball into the gap in right-center. Austin Jackson went for a long run, then did something Austin Jackson never does: he dove. Even more, he made the game-saving catch, allowing the Tigers to win on an Alex Avila single in the 11th.
Sept. 26: Hard Slide Brings Division Lead (video)
This Wednesday night at Comerica Park, the Tigers broke a tie in the standings with the division-leading Chicago White Sox and never looked back. Things might have been different if not for a gritty play by Andy Dirks. In the bottom of the eighth, game tied at four, Jhonny Peralta hit a tailor-made double play ball with men on first and third. Aware of the situation, Dirks, running from first, barged in to second base with a smart takeout slide, forcing Irving Falu to hold the ball and allowing Don Kelly to score the game-winning run.
Sept. 27: Nine Straight Ks (video)
This 5-4 walk-off Tigers victory was not your average 5-4 walk-off victory. In its midst, Doug Fister set an American League record by downing nine consecutive Kansas City Royals on strikes. This not from Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer, who finished the season first and second in total strikeouts, but Fister, a “contact pitcher.” The Royals eventually came back from a four-run deficit, only for Detroit to win on a walk-off groundout with the bases loaded in the ninth.
Oct. 2: Triple Crown (video)
Miguel Cabrera won the first batting Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. When he became uncatchable in all three necessary categories during the last game of the season, Jim Leyland pulled him from third base in favor of Ramon Santiago. The crowd at Kauffman Stadum rewarded him with a classy standing ovation.
Besides the above, what were some of your favorite Tiger moments from the 2012 season? Leave a comment and let us know.
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