It was a tale of two wins for the Detroit Tigers on Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday, the Tigers could muster up only six hits all night long against a solid outing by starting pitcher Bud Norris, the “ace” of the Astros’ staff if there is one. The top five hitters in the lineup totaled three hits, one run scored and one RBI.
Solid defense was played by both teams throughout the game, and every play was needed in such a close game. Torii Hunter made a fantastic shoe-string catch that, frankly, would most likely have turned into a triple after a Brennan Boesch slide attempt. Omar Infante played a solid second base as he has all year, and showed his range when he ran far to his left to nab a softly hit one-hop liner off of Jose Altuve’s bat and fired an off-balance bullet to Prince Fielder to beat Altuve to first. It has been great watching Infante’s improved defense this year, especially after a bombardment of errors near the end of the year last season.
The Tigers needed ninth inning heroics from one of its role players in the form of catcher Alex Avila. On a 3-1 pitch with a runner on first, Avila smacked a 3-1 down-the-middle fastball over the wall in right-center field to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead that made Avila “cheese like a Chesh Cat” around third base and in the dugout along with his pumped-up teammates. The lead and the game was saved by back-again closer Jose Valverde, who has looked extremely solid in his return to the Tigers, sporting a small sample size based WHIP of 0.250 and three saves in three opportunities.
Saturday’s win was a bit more lopsided, but just as fun to watch thanks to the bevy of Tigers hits and complete domination all-around. The Tigers’ one through five hitters had 14 hits, 11 runs scored, and 13 RBI – a complete turnaround from Friday’s game. This included a 4-4 night from Miguel Cabrera that included a walk, two home runs, three runs scored, and a career high-tying six RBI. Astros starter Lucas Harrell lasted only four and a third and allowed ten hits, four walks, and eight earned runs.
During Friday’s game, defense was a positive for both teams; but while the Tigers’ defense was once again steady Saturday, it seemed like the Astros just didn’t care after the first few innings. There were at least three balls bobbled that lead to either an extra base for the batter or runner, not including the error charged to Ronny Cedeno in the 8th that allowed Jhonny Peralta to score and Omar Infante to reach base for the fourth time in the game. In the eighth, with the score 16-1, Torii Hunter drilled a double down the left field line. With the score being as it was, Tom Brookens, the third base coach, was slowly advancing Infante, wanting to stop him at third. Fernando Martinez, the left fielder, was very slow getting to the ball, however, and once again bobbled it while trying to pick it up, and Brookens had no choice but to send Infante, making it a 17-1 game that the previous play epitomized.