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Clete's Clout Lifts Tigers


Baltimore 5, Detroit 6 (box)

I wrote yesterday about a very bad feeling I had coming in to the start of the Tigers home series against Baltimore.  Two pitches into the game, it appeared as if all my fears were about to be realized. 

Brian Roberts hit a long home run to right field to lead off the game against Tigers all-star right hander Justin Verlander, but that was only the beginning.  By the time Verlander had managed to get the second out, the Orioles had pounced to a 5-0 lead.  Bad things were happening, hope was nearly lost.

But Verlander and the Tigers offense would have none of that last night.

“This is one of my favorite starts of my career,” Verlander said after the game. “In the past, I would have fallen apart — when I struggled in the first, I would never make it out of the fourth. Tonight, I went eight and kept us in the game.”

It helped that the Tigers came right back in the bottom of the first.  Orioles starter Chris Tillman allowed a Curtis Granderson lead off triple, followed by Placido Polanco’s double and a walk to Clete Thomas.  Clean up man Miguel Cabrera then brought two home on a double of his own to make the score 5-3.  “That was huge,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “When we come right back with three, that sends up a red flag that we’re still in this game.”

The Tigers scratched out a two-out run in the fourth, on a clutch Ramon Santiago single, then tied the game in the fifth on a solo home run by Cabrera.  El Martillo now has the club lead with 61 RBI.

Orioles reliever Dannys Baez entered in the eighth and struck out the first four hitter he faced, all on called third strikes, before getting Polanco to ground out for the second out of the ninth.  All just a precursor for what was about to happen.

Into the box stepped Thomas, with his six home runs.  The man who Leyland continues to hit third despite all logic.  The man with his own following so strong they have t-shirts.  The man who hammered a 1-2 fastball on a line to deep center field that cleared the wall 420 feet away, giving the Tigers a 6-5 victory.  

“I was just trying to get to third” said Thomas.  “When I was rounding first and realized it had gone out, I didn’t know how to react. It feels better than you even think it will — and that’s something you always dream of doing.”

Leave it to Clete to wash away my fears, at least for one night.  Looks like I may have to become a full-fledged cult member, yet.  If nothing else, I promise not to say anything bad about him batting third for a while.

Cheers for  

  • Thomas and his first career walk-off shot 
  • Verlander, for making adjustments and pitching through the eighth 
  • Cabrera, who went 2-4 with three RBI
  • Marcus Thames, who made two fine defensive plays
  • The Tigers, whose win added a half game to the Tigers divisional lead, now at two game over Chicago, and three-and-a-half over Minnesota.
  • Orioles manager Dave Tremblay, for keeping Melvin Mora out of the lineup yet again.  That guy kills the Tigers.

No Jeers in this one, the win just feels too good to assign blame anywhere.

Looking ahead, the Tigers will try to continue their winning ways at home tonight when newly acquired left hander Jarrod Washburn makes his Tigers debut against lefty Brian Matusz, who is making his major league debut.  As I noted yesterday, the Tigers have struggled against unknown pitchers this year, but they got to Tillman, so maybe the trend is turning.

Washburn was 4-0 with a 0.74 ERA over his last five starts with the Mariners and has pitched very well in two starts versus Baltimore this season.