Detroit 5, Los Angeles 3 (box)
This one had all the makings for disaster. Jarrod Washburn hadn’t won a game since joining the Tigers in a deadline deal. He hadn’t won a game at Angel Stadium since leaving the Angels four years ago. John Lackey had never lost to the Tigers, going 6-0 in eight career starts. The Tigers had won the opener, but hadn’t won a road series since 2006, or so it seemed anyway.
Somehow, none of that mattered last night.
I say somehow, because I still can’t see how the Tigers managed to win that game. As has been the protocol on this road trip, Detroit scored a run in the first inning. Miguel Cabrera’s RBI ground out scored Placido Polanco to give the Tigers an early edge. But Washburn handed the lead back in the second when Howie Kendrick slammed an opposite field three-run home run to give the Angels a 3-1 lead. Facing Lackey, the game looked lost already.
But Washburn settled in a bit, pitching his way into and then out of trouble all night. The three runs he allowed on Kendrick’s blast were the only three he allowed in the game, thanks in no small part to some stellar Detroit defense.
The tide began to turn in the fifth inning, as Curtis Granderson, who had already fanned twice against Lackey, lead off with a solo home run to right. Two batters later, Cabrera struck again, connecting on a first pitch breaking ball that he deposited over the center field wall to knot the score at three. Detroit took the lead for good in the seventh, when Granderson again sent a long fly ball deep to right. The ball careened off the top of the wall and Granderson scampered safely into third base with a triple. Polanco followed that with a triple of his own, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Magglio Ordonez, pushing the game to 5-3 Tigers.
Enter Zach Miner in the seventh and hang on tight. Miner couldn’t (or wouldn’t) find the strike zone. After getting Chone Figgins to start the inning, Miner walked Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter on eight straight pitches. Vlad Guerrero helped Miner out by popping out to right on a pitch out of the zone for the second out, but Miner then walked Juan Rivera to load the bases for Erick Aybar. In fairness to Miner, some of those balls could have easily been called strikes, just ask Aubrey Huff.
After getting ahead 0-2, Miner went back to nibbling, and missed with the next two. Ball three was in the dirt and got past catcher Alex Avila. Abreu immediately broke for home, but Avila recovered in time to get Abreu at the plate to end the inning.
I told my wife at the time, that was the only way the Tigers get out of that inning with the lead. Had Miner had to throw another pitch to Aybar, he likely would have walked in a run, then who knows what would have happened. The Angels are way to good to be handed an opportunity like that one. You won’t see them let the pitcher off the hook like that too often.
As it turns out, perhaps this was all the doing of the great and powerful Avila. Clearly he could see that Miner wasn’t going to make Aybar swing the bat. Perhaps Avila allowed that pitch to get past him in order to entice Abreu to run for home, knowing he would have time to get the final out and preserve the lead. Am I giving Avila too much credit here?
- El Martillo– Miguel Cabrera was at it again. After tormenting the Angels for five RBI in the series opener, He added two more last night. Another three hit game included his third home run in as many nights. Don’t look now, but BigMig is making his MVP claim right now. Just ask J. Ellet Lambie.
- Brandon Inge– Inge made a sparkling play to start an inning ending double play in the first, and picked up two hits at the plate, both coming with two strikes. Inge says his knees feel better than they have in months, which is good news for the Tigers.
- Curtis Granderson– Grandy struck out three time, which is bad. In his other two at bats, he homered and tripled. He also made a fantastic running catch to save a run in the first, ahead of Inge’s play to end the threat. The game could have changed dramatically right there.
- Aubrey Huff– Perhaps I’m getting on him too much, as I’m sure he will hit, but he had another 0 for 4 night, this time with three strike outs. Huff disputed a lot of calls, but when it’s going bad, those calls go against you.
- Zach Miner– It is becoming obvious that Miner has little confidence in his stuff. He constantly pitches away from contact and tries to get hitters to chase. This works well in you are pitching ahead in the count, but Miner doesn’t seem willing to ever get ahead of hitters.
- Chad Fairchild– Fairchild was the home plate umpire. I’m not one to blame the umpires for anything, but Fairchild was extremely inconsistent with his strike zone. After taking a foul ball off his arm, this seemed to get worse. Of course, the way Miner was nibbling, I might not have given him boarderline calls either.
What’s on tap
Edwin Jackson and the Tigers will look for the sweep this afternoon. The Angels will send struggling lefty Joe Saunders to the mound against them. Jackson (10-5, 2.86) has been up and down over the second half, but he has managed to keep his club in the game most of the time. Saunders (9-7, 5.33) hasn’t pitched since August 7, when he allowed five runs in 1.2 innings against Texas. He has been on the disabled list with a stiff shoulder since. The Tigers haven’t swept a series in Anaheim since August 16-18, 1993.
The White Sox fell again to Boston, and now trail the Tigers by 4.5 games. Minnesota has joined Chicago in second place after their come from behind home win against Baltimore. Chicago is 0-2 on their current 11 game road trip, and they send Gavin Floyd to the mound at Fenway tonight against Tim Wakefield. The Twins have won five straight and seven of eight. They welcomed Justin Morneau back from an inner ear infection last night. Nick Blackburn gets the ball against Baltimore and Jeremy Guthrie as Minnesota tries to complete the sweep of the O’s.