It certainly had the feeling of one of those games. Too many times to count over the past several seasons the Detroit Tigers had raced out to six or seven run leads in the first couple of innings, only to sit idly by while the opponent began to chip away and eventually overtake the Tigers and win the game. Last night had all the makings of a similar ending.
The recipe for disaster began with the rough performance from Tigers starter Rick Porcello (9-4). The rookie, making his first start since July 5, was certainly anything but sharp in his five innings versus Seattle last night. By the time he had recorded nine outs, the M’s already had posted seven hits.
A solo home run from former Tiger Jack Hannahan in the fourth, followed by a Ryan Langerhans two-run shot in the fifth, took a comfortable Tigers lead and whittled it down to just three. A second Hannahan blast in the sixth, off Tigers lefty Fu Te Ni, and a lead that once stood at 8-1, was now 8-6.
Miguel Cabrera sent a line drive over the fence in left to push the lead back to three in the bottom of the sixth, an insurance run that would come up big because in the next half-inning, Wladimir Balentien hammered a Bobby Seay offering for a solo shot of his own to bring the game back to 9-7.
It was up to Fernando Rodney to protect the lead in the ninth. Rodney had not pitched in more than a week and had not blown a save all year. He hit Russell Branyan to lead off the inning, then allowed an infield single to Jose Lopez. An Ichiro Suzuki ground out moved both runners into scoring position with only one out, but Rodney finally put out the Mariners’ fire by striking out Balentien and getting Langerhans to fly out to right to end the game.
Of course the only good thing about almost losing a big lead is that the Tigers had a big lead. Before Garrett Olson (3-4) had retired a single hitter, he trailed 5-1. Hits from Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco started the game, followed by back-to-back walks to Caberera and Marcus Thames to load the bases. That’s when Olson threw a 2-2 curveball to Magglio Ordonez, who found the seats for his first grand slam in seven years.
Could this be the start of something big? Cabrera reached base five times and ran his hitting streak to 16 games, with a home run, a double, and a single. Polanco added a homer and a double, and Thames just missed homering twice, and also took two walks. If those three can get locked in the offense could take off. Of course, facing Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn the next two games could put them right back into a funk just as easily.
The Tigers’ lead is back up to two games over the White Sox thanks to Chicago’s loss to Tampa Bay last night… No announcement has been made as to whom the Tigers will start in the second game of Friday’s double header with Chicago, Justin Verlander will start game one. It was mentioned that that starter will come from the minor leagues… DH Carlos Guillen will begin the second leg of his rehab assigmnet in Toledo today and could be back in the Tigers’ lineup by early next week… Is it just me, or does Langerhans look an awful lot like former Tiger Karim Garcia? If you put a goatee on Langerhans, they could be brothers.