Tigers Salvage Finale with Help From Maligned Stars
By John Parent
The Detroit Tigers managed to take the final game of what turned out to be a disappointing homestand on Sunday. The recent run of bad starting pitching performances had already cost left hander Phil Coke a spot in the rotation. On Sunday, despite a strong outing from starter Rick Porcello, the Tigers pitching troubles cost pitching coach Rick Knapp his job. I’ll have expanded thoughts on the coaching carousel later.
Porcello, on this day, was good enough and far better than the Tigers have seen from non-Justin Verlander starters of late. Just as Brad Penny turned in a strong outing on Friday night, only to see his offense provide him with nothing in the way of help, Porcello was staring at the wrong end of a 3-2 game headed to the bottom of the seventh. With the bases empty and two out, Brandon Inge battle Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong for a walk. That would be the end of the day for Vogelsong with southpaw Jeremy Affeldt called upon to get the top of the Tigers order. Affeldt walked the first man he faced, but should have been out of the inning when Brennan Boesch grounded to third. Miguel Tejada‘s throw was low and Pablo Sandoval couldn’t scoop it and the bases were loaded.
Back to the bullpen for the Giants to get Santiago Casilla to face Magglio Ordonez. Maggs has been red-hot in his past nine games coming in, at .355/.444/.516/.960 over 31 at bats. He also came up clutch on Friday, driving in the tying run with two outs in the eighth. Today, Maggs came through again, lining a two-run single up the middle to give Detroit the lead.
Maggs’ heroics would have been wasted if not for a curious defensive change in the top half of the eighth. With Jhonny Peralata in the game already, having been a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh, Ramon Santiago shifted to second. Austin Jackson entered for Ordonez, but instead of also bringing in Casper Wells, Jim Leyland placed Ryan Raburn in left, moving him there from second base. With the tying and go ahead runner on base against Joaquin Benoit, San Francisco’s Aaron Rowand lined a sure-fire double into the left-center field gap. Raburn raced to his left and dove superman style and somehow snared the ball before it fell to the grass.
In the bottom of the inning, the Tigers added two more insurance runs, both cruising around to score when Inge lined a ball over Rowand’s head in center. Inge wound up at third base, just the tenth extra-base hit he’s contributed this season.
These are the kinds of wins that make you think this team can win the division, that this team can contend for a world title. When they get solid starting pitching, like they did today, when they get timely hitting from guys like Ordonez and Inge, like they did today, when they do those things, they won’t lose too often. Magglio look every bit the hitter he was a year ago these days. If Rabrun and Inge can follow suit and show a return to their previous form as well, the sky might very well be the limit for the offense.
The pitching is another story. I’ll be back in the morning with a detailed look at the firing of Rick Knapp. In the meantime, enjoy this win. It was a thing of beauty to see in person.