The Detroit Tigers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 8-6 in 11 innings in the opening game of a 3 game series at Tropicana Field and the first of a 7 game road trip. In his last 10 starts, Max Scherzer allowed 0 runs once, 1 run five times, 2 runs three times, and 3 runs once. He gave up 4 runs for the first time since giving up 10 to the Kansas City Royals in June. The Tigers made a comeback late, squandered the lead, and retook it in this game. In a blast from the past (3 years ago), Jim Johnson got the win, Grant Balfour got the loss and Joe Nathan got the save.
The Rays got things started in the bottom of the first inning. Walks are a killer to pitchers and Scherzer was not an exception. Scherzer hit Ben Zobrist with a pitch and walked Evan Longoria to put two runners on with two outs. James Loney then hit a three run home run inside of the foul pole down the right field line.
The Rays added on in the second inning. Vince Belnome hit a fly ball to center field to start the inning that Rajai Davis lost in the lights that ended up bouncing over the wall for a ground rule double. Curt Casali sacrificed Belnome to third with a bunt. Kevin Kiermaier walked. Zobrist then reached for the second time with a single up the middle to put score Belnome and put the Rays up 4-0.
The Tigers offense showed signs of life in the fifth inning. Nick Castellanos led off the inning with a single through the shift. Andrew Romine singled up the middle to put runners at first and second with one out. Rajai Davis then hit a ground ball to first which Loney threw down to second and committed an error loading the bases. Ian Kinsler walked to bring a run home to make it 4-1 Rays. Torii Hunter then grounded into a fielder’s choice driving home another run. Miguel Cabrera then came to the plate and hit a line drive to center which was originally ruled a catch, but was overturned and ruled a single to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Life continued to be shown by the Tigers in the 6th. With two outs, the Tigers put together a rally. Walks killed both sides in this game. Alex Avila and Andrew Romine both walked (Romine’s third time on base in the game). Rajai Davis drove in Avila with a base hit to center field to tie the game a 4-4.
The Tigers then took the lead and made baseball fun in the 8th inning. J.D. Martinez led the inning off with a bomb to center field to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead.
The Tigers then crushed any fun that happened in the bottom half of the inning. Joba Chamberlain came in for his usual 8th inning, and he continued his struggles of late. Chamberlain walked Evan Longoria before Loney and Yunel Escobar singled to load the bases. Belnome then hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 5-5.
Both sides were held scoreless in the 9th after the Tigers could not score with two on with two out, so this game went to extras.
In the 10th, the Tigers threatened, but did not score. J.D. Martinez led the inning off with a single to left field and was pinch run for by Ezequiel Carrera. Don Kelly popped up a bunt and Eugenio Suarez struck out. Andrew Romine singled to right field to put two on with two outs for the 2nd straight inning, but Davis struck out to strand the runners.
Jim Johnson pitched his first scoreless inning since July 9 and got the Tigers out of the 10th inning unscathed.
The Tigers put a runner on third with no one out against Grant Balfour after Kinsler hit a flare to right when the right fielder Kiermaier tried to make a diving catch and failed. Balfour then walked Hunter and intentionally walked Cabrera to load the bases with no one out. Balfour then proceeded end his night by walking Victor Martinez to force home a run and give the Tigers a 6-5 lead with 0 outs and the bases loaded. Balfour threw 14 pitches and only 2 of them were strikes: one was the ball Kinsler hit, the other a swinging strike to Martinez.
The Tigers were not done after Balfour was pulled from the game. Jake Beliveau entered the game a struck out Carrera. Kelly then watched a pitch get to the backstop to score Hunter from third. Later in the AB, Kelly walked. Bryan Holaday then hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate Cabrera and give the Tigers the 8-5 lead. Thanks to the walks, wild pitch and sacrifice fly, the Tigers scored 3 runs with one hit which bounced off of the right fielder’s glove on a dive.
Joe Nathan then came into game and surrendered a run as the Rays put together a 2 out rally. Zobrist reached base with a single, Logan Forsythe walked, and Longoria singled home a run to make it 8-6. Nathan then struck out Sean Rodriguez to close the game and give the Tigers the 8-6 win in 11 innings.
The two sides will face off again Wednesday at 7:10 as Rick Porcello takes on Jake Odorizzi in the 2nd game of this 3 game series.