Brennan Boesch, Miguel Cabrera Lead Tigers to Offensive Awakening Late
By John Parent
I could write three posts dedicated to how well Rick Porcello pitched last night. He found himself in trouble on multiple occasions and he found a way to get a groundball or a strikeout almost every time he needed one. It was easily his best outing of the year and not just because he didn’t give up but one run in six innings, but because his pitches had more purpose last night. Or at least because they were better executed than in his two previous starts.
But for the second straight night, both starting pitchers were effective in keeping the other club off the board. The four starters in this series have combined to allow only one run to score. The Tigers did their damage against the Oakland bullpen on Thursday and they did it again last night as well.
Down 1-0 in the eighth, A’s right hander Grant Balfour found himself in a battle with Brennan Boesch. Boesch had fallen behind in the count, but worked his way back into the at bat. He connected on a 3-2 fastball and drove it to deep centerfield. Boesch thought he might have just tied the game, I did too, but it fell short of the wall and into the glove of Coco Crisp to end the inning. With Brian Fuentes on to close the game in the ninth, Miguel Cabrera would greet him.
And it took only three pitches for Fuentes to surrender the one-run cushion. Cabrera connected with a Fuentes fastball and drove it over the right-centerfield wall to knot the score at one apiece. I wonder if average fans realize the greatness they get to see everyday with Cabrera. He isn’t just the Tigers best hitter, he’s the best hitter that the American League has seen since Ken Griffey Jr was in his prime in Seattle. He’s better than Alex Rodriguez, at least from where I sit. He’s every bit the equal right now to Albert Pujols. We are talking about one of the all-time greats here and we get to watch him hit every single night. What a privilege that is.
The score would stay tied with Boesch at the plate in a bases-loaded situation in the 10th. Fuentes was still in the game and there was one away. A groundball would keep the score tied and end the inning and Boesch fell behind 0-2 to Fuentes. The 0-2 pitch was a good one; a slider down, nearly scraping the dirt. There aren’t many hitters who could make contact with that pitch in that situation, but this is where Boesch earned his reputation as a good bad-ball hitter. He went down, nearly dropping to one knee to swing the ptch and not only made contact, he drove the wall deep into the rightfield corner. The ball stayed fair and hit the base of the wall in right. Two Tigers scored on the play and the floodgates had been opened.
Boesch swings at too many pitches for my taste, but these are the type of hits he delivered last year when he was hot. He hasn’t carried the club the way he did in 2010 as of yet, but he looks like a better hitter than he was then. He’s still aggressive and he still has the ability to make good contact with pitches that more patient hitters wouldn’t even swing at. 99 percent of the hitters in baseball wouldn’t have been able to hit that pitch with any kind of authority, Boesch nearly knocked it out of the park. He still reminds me of Vladimir Guerrero in that way, he’s still a very dangerous hitter to have in the lineup.
Really, the only downside of this game was that Brayan Villarreal decided to fire fastballs down the middle with the seven-run lead. That wound up costing him three runs when he left the game with the bases loaded, only to see all three inherited runners score against Joaquin Benoit. It looked like Benoit would get away with only one run scoring in that jam he walked into, but David DeJesus knocked in the last two with a single the other way. In a closer game this would have hurt, but I suppose that in a closer game, Benoit’s (and Villarreal’s) concentration level may have been higher as well.
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