It took 12 games, but the Detroit Tigers finally won a series. And they did it against the reigning AL Camps, who just so happened to have the league’s best record this season as well.
Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge caught a hanging slider from Rangers left hander Darren Oliver and deposited it into the left field stands, clearing the bullpens beyond the wall. It was a no-doubt shot that launched the Tigers to their second-straight victory, both of which coming in the bottom of the ninth.
The Inge homer capped what had been a frustrating afternoon for the Tigers offense. Despite getting multiple baserunners in each of the first three innings, Rangers starter Dave Bush managed to dance through the Tigers order without giving up a run. Tigers starter Max Scherzer turned his his best start of the young season by twirling six strong innings, allowing a pair of runs and striking out seven. He wasn’t the most efficient, but he had his good stuff today and the Rangers didn’t have an answer for him until they plated a pair of runs in the sixth.
But just as they did yesterday, the Tigers clawed back from behind. Back-to-back doubles greeted Rangers reliever Mark Lowe and Inge tied the game with a sacrifice fly to shallow right field. Brennan Boesch, who had knocked in the first Tigers run with one of those doubles, raced home in the face of Nelson Cruz, who’s throw was up the first base line, allowing Boesch to slide in safely.
It wasn’t all great for Detroit today. The offense couldn’t get going against Bush despite multiple opportunities. This continues a trend that has plagued the Tigers for some time, as they far too often look lifeless against the more mediocre starters in the league, a category that describes Bush for sure. The same thing happened last weekend when they couldn’t solve Kansas City’s Bruce Chen. But unlike in that game, the Tigers eventually got the bats going ever-so-slightly today.
Alex Avila had another rough defensive game as Rangers runners advanced on three wild pitches and swiped three more bases. While Avila has turned it around with his bat after a slow start to the season, his defensive work, specifically in blocking balls in the dirt, hasn’t been where the Tigers need it to be.
But a win is a win and for the rest of the day, that makes it all better. Brayan Villarreal was excellent in two shutout innings of relief and it sure looks like he may have staked a claim to the vacant seventh-inning role in the bullpen. Even after Ryan Perry returns next week, I’d be surprised if Villarreal loses that job until he proves he can’t handle it.
I sure am glad that Jim Leyland called the home run play in the ninth, that was good managing. (hi Matt)