It took until the fifth inning for the majority of the damage to be done, but the Detroit Tigers’ offense finally jumped on Seattle starter Joe Saunders.
Detroit got on the board right away in the first inning when back-to-back one-out singles by Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera put runners on the corners and a wild pitch by Saunders brought Hunter home. The offense went on a four inning hiatus after that, recording only two hits until the bottom of the sixth inning when Miguel Cabrera drew a two-out walk.
Saunders, who’s not a very good pitcher (to put it kindly), was cruising until that walk to Cabrera. Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, and Omar Infante followed with back-to-back-to-back singles and suddenly the Tigers had chased the starter from the game with a 3-1 lead. They would go on to add one more run in the seventh inning when a Hunter single drove home Alex Avila, but, with Rick Porcello dealing, they wouldn’t need it.
Porcello didn’t go all that deep into the game – he was lifted after six innings and 105 pitches – but he was just about as good as it gets on Monday night. His lone blemish was a solo home run in the third inning off the bat of Abraham Almonte, but he finished the evening with 10 strikeouts against only two walks (and just the one run allowed). He had all of his pitches working, he located everything well, and he generated plenty of swings and misses. It was the type of game that most teams can’t get out of their fifth best starting pitcher.
Drew Smyly entered the game in the seventh inning in relief and, although he surrendered one run in his 1.2 innings, he and Jose Veras bridged the gap effectively enough. Joaquin Benoit did his thing in the ninth and nailed down the game. He walked the leadoff batter but he was immediately erased with a double play. No drama necessary.
The win knocks the Tigers’ magic number down to eight and ups the division lead to 5.5 games over the Indians. (pending the result of the Cleveland-Kansas City game). The real battle, though, is the battle for positioning among the American League’s likely division winners. Oakland plays late, but Monday’s win pulls Detroit to within a game and a half of the A’s for the second position.