Motor City Bengals has picked the top 10 games of the Detroit Tigers’ 2014 season. We continue with #4 today and will present another game each Sunday until reaching the best Tigers’ game of the season.
#4: September 20, Kauffman Stadium — Kansas City, MO
When the Detroit Tigers were winning three straight AL Central Division championships from 2011-13 there was never really a huge, playoff-like series between them and the second place team in the division. In 2011, they ran away with the AL Central. In 2012 they surged down the stretch while the Chicago White Sox swooned on separate fields. The Cleveland Indians 2012 season ended with them just a game behind the Tigers, but their 4-15 mark against them during the season all but eliminated them by mid-September.
So the September series in Kansas City this past September was filled with high drama and something unfamiliar to the Tigers’ players and fans.
Trailing by just a half game in the standings prior to the opener of the three-game series, Kansas City caught baseball fever in a sign of things to come into the postseason. They sold out each game and anticipated more than 100,000 fans for a three-game series for the first time since the mid-1980’s. Aside from a hiccup in a four-game series in June where the Tigers dropped three straight to the Royals, they handled them quiet easily in 2014.
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Detroit led the season series 9-4 but the teams had not played since the final series before the All-Star break. The Royals were a different team in the second half, compiling the American League’s best record in that time. The Tigers had been particularly dominate in Kauffman Stadium, losing just once in seven tries.
With a crowd ready to party and urge their Royals to a half game lead with a victory, the Tigers delivered a decisive punch in the first game of the series on Friday, winning easily 10-1 and pushing their divisional lead to 1.5 games. If they won on Saturday, it would guarantee the Tigers would leave Kansas City still in first place.
The teams were locked in a scoreless deadlock for the first three innings. Scherzer got into trouble a few times but was always able to work his way out of it without harm.
Torii Hunter led off the fourth inning with a home run and it stayed 1-0 until the fifth inning when Alcides Exobar singled into center when the ball deflected off Ian Kinsler allowing Jarrod Dyson to score on an error.
Kinsler, whose steady defense all season long made up for his offensive woes in the second half, would make another gaff one inning later. With Eric Hosmer at second base following a double and Salvador Perez at third base, Omar Infante lined out to Kinsler. After a delay, Kinsler decided to throw to second thinking Hosmer wouldn’t get back to the base. Eugenio Suarez, playing in his first game in a week, didn’t react right away and Kinsler’s throw dribbled into center field. Perez saw this and took off for home, making it in without a throw.
It was 2-1 Kansas City and 37,074 were going crazy. But, not so fast.
Hernan Perez, who was brought up in September call-ups but had very minimal action, saw that Salvador Perez did not go back to third and touch the base. Since it was a catch by Kinsler, the baserunner would have needed to tag up before advancing a base. Salvador Perez did not do that.
After a lengthy replay delay, and after Scherzer threw to third base after the play was over, the umpires called Perez out and wiped the run off the board. The result of the play was an inning-ending double play.
In the ensuing inning for the Tigers, J.D. Martinez singled with one out. With two outs and two on following a walk, Brad Ausmus decided to go with Tyler Collins as a pinch hitter for Bryan Holaday. Another little used September call-up, Collins delivered a single, scoring Martinez. One batter later, Rajai Davis blooped a pitch into right field, scoring Suarez for a 3-1 lead.
The drama was far from over as the Tigers’ bullpen would need to spell a tired Scherzer. Joba Chamberlain allowed a run in the eighth inning to make it 3-2 and then Alka Seltzer time came when Joe Nathan allowed KC to get two on with one out on a pair of back-to-back base hits. He retired the final two batters after throwing 21 stressful ninth inning pitches.
The victory ensured that Kansas City would not topple Detroit for first place in this final head-to-head series in their home. Though the Royals claimed the final game of the series on Sunday, they dropped two of three in Detroit a week later and sealed their fate within the division.
Though Kansas City ultimately went much further than Detroit in the postseason, this game may have been the moment when the Tigers essentially clinched the division. Because the Tigers were ousted so quickly in the playoffs, this was probably the only real and true playoff feel the Tigers and their fans experienced in 2014.
Only three more entries left. What will be the top three games of 2014? Tune in the next three weeks and find out!