Tampa Bay 2, Detroit 3 (box)
At this point, every game is vitally important for the Detroit Tigers. The playoffs are probably nothing more than a pipe dream by now as the Tigers have fallen to 10 games off the pace in the AL Central. A brutal second half schedule combined with several key injuries to send the Tigers from contenders to also-rans in a hurry.
After dropping the first two games of the series with the Rays, the Tigers sat five games under .500, their lowest point of the season so far, and they were facing Matt Garza, a pitcher that no-hit them the last time they faced.
But the Tigers had Justin Verlander on the mound and he would not be denied.
Veralnder battled the Rays lineup early, throwing a large number of pitches in seemingly every inning. But when the Rays couldn’t push across a run, Verlander settled in and dialed up his secondary pitches. He struck out five straight Rays in the third and fourth innings, then allowed a leadoff double in the fifth before fanning the next two batters and eventually stranding the runner.
Garze, meanwhile, was almost as good. He relied on a steady diet of fastballs to retire the Tigers in his gem last week and it was more of the same this afternoon. Miguel Cabrera, in one of his few at bats when they actaully pitched to him, lead off the second inning with a double, but was still at second with two outs. Brandon Inge brought him home with a single to center to put the Tigers on top.
Detroit loaded the bases in the third and fifth, each time Cabrera was walked with two outs to bring up Jhonny Peralta, who entered the game 9-for-19 career versus Garza. Peralta lined out in each of his three at bats against him today, however, and the Tigers failed to capitalize of some quality scoring chances.
After Detroit left them loaded in the fifth, Evan Longoria lead off the sisth with a triple to right center, scoring the tying run on a single by Matt Joyce. Verlander would need some help to earn his 13th win of the season.
In the bottom of the inning, Ryan Raburn provided that help by way of a two-run homer against Garza that gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead. After that it was up to the bullpen and Ryan Perry and Jose Valverde combined to fend off the Rays and wrap up just the seventh Tigers win since the all-star break.
The Tigers are by no means out of the woods as far as the schedule is concerned. After a day off tomorrow, Detroit takes on the White Sox and Yankees on a seven game road trip. For the second straight time, Chicago will miss both Verlander and Max Scherzer so Detroit will need someone else to step up in the rotation.
Detroit is among the worst in baseball away from home (lately they’ve been bad everywhere), so the next seven games figure to be a grind. You’d like to think that they can put things together and make an extended run now that Inge and Carlos Guillen are healthy. Brennan Boesch was on base three times today and I like that he’s been batting in front of Cabrera recently. The lineup isn’t as good as it was when Boesch was bashing and Magglio Ordonez was playing, but this lineup could theoretically be just as productive give that Peralta should be an upgrade over the Ramon Santiago/Danny Worth combination that was manning shortstop.
Perhaps it’s better to just enjoy today’s win and not worry so much about the ramifications. It’s less depressing that way.