Chicago 3, Detroit 5 (box)
Magic Number 1
Justin Verlander probably will not win the American League Cy Young award. He won’t win the MVP, either. But today he won the most important game of the 2009 season for his club.
For the first seven innings, Verlander flat out owned the White Sox. He allowed just two hits, both singles, and kept his pitch count down. He appeared poised to forego his signature one-inning blowup and finish off his own masterpiece. His curveballwas the best I can remember seeing, at least since the last time he pitched. He toyed with Chicago hitters, throwing fastballs by them when they were fools enough to look offspeed, and dropping the hammer when the hitter was dead-red. It was a completely stress-free ballgame.
Until the eighth inning, when Verlander’s demons appeared in the form of a sharp single followed by a broken bat bloop single and then a two run single from Brent Lillibridge and all of a sudden the bullpen had to get hot in a hurry. With a third run already home and Carlos Quentin on deck, Verlander walked Jayson Nix on four pitches to bring Quentin up as the go-ahead run. Fernando Rodney entered and got a shallow fly ball from Quentin that Curtis Granderson ran a long, long ways to corral on a dive, saving the game, and perhaps the Tigers’ season.
As for the Tigers, they provided one last day of free Arby’s with three longballs. One of which came on an 0-2 pitch to Magglio Ordonez, who hammered the John Danks offering deep beyond the visitor’s bullpen. Ryan Raburn, in the game to face the lefty Danks (or just because he’s pretty good and Jim Leyland is smart enough to finally realize it), scored the first run when Danks walked Carlos Guillen with the bags juiced in the first inning. Raburn then gave the Tigers a cushion with a two-run bomb in the third, and added a solo shot against right hander Daniel Hudson to extent the Tigers’ lead to 4-0.
- Justin Verlander– JV finished strong, sewing up a career high 19th victory and wrapping up the AL strikeout crown as well. Simply put, he was an ace when the Tigers needed him to be.
- Magglio Ordonez– He picked a good time for a four hit game, didn’t he? With the way Miguel Cabrera has disappeared lately, perhaps Maggs remembered that he used to be the feared slugger, and started to act like it again. I may be alone on this, but I expect a big season from Maggs next year. I’m talking .320 or so with 20 bombs and 95-100 RBI. I think maybe he’s not done just yet.
- Ryan Raburn– Tell me again why he only plays against LHP?
- Gerald Laird– G-Money has done a whole lot of talking and not much to back it up, but he had a big day today with two hits and a runner caught stealing.
- Miguel Cabrera– Again, Cabrera was no where to be found in a must-win game. I can only hope that Mr. Pop-Up becomes El Martillo again in time for game 163.
What’s on tap
Scoreboard watching for the next hour or so, but if the Twins hold on against the Royals, and they were leading 8-4 in the 6th, the Tigers will have to play at Minnesota on Tuesday for the right to lose to face the Yankees in the playoffs as the AL Central Champions. If it happens (and I’ll bet it does), it will be Rick Porcello vs Scott Baker at 5pm eastern
UPDATE: Twins win 13-4, so the 163rd game will be played. For more on this game check out The Tigers Den, where I wrote a sintilating early preview. Well, a preview anyway.