Detroit Tigers’ Top Game of 2014: June 30 vs Oakland Athletics

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For the past nine weeks, Motor City Bengals has selected the top 10 games of the Detroit Tigers’ 2014 season. Today the feature reaches its conclusion with the top Tigers’ game of 2014. Was there really another choice?

63. Final. 4. 96. 5

#1: June 30, Comerica Park — Detroit, MI

The Detroit Tigers and the Oakland Athletics tangled in two memorable postseason series 2012 and 2013, and halfway through the 2014 season it appeared a foregone conclusion that they would meet up again.

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We now know that didn’t happen with the A’s limping to the finish and being ousted in the Wild-Card game while the Tigers were bounced out of the postseason in three games of the ALDS. Yet those factors do not tarnish one of the instant classic games in Tigers’ history.

The Tigers’ roller coaster season had reached a hill again. After starting the season 27-12, then going 9-19, Detroit entered the three game series with Oakland winners of nine of their last 11 games. The teams had split a four-game series at Oakland in May, but the Tigers have struggled against the Athletics in Comerica Park during the regular season and Oakland was sporting the best record in the majors.

One year before, a shocking Torii Hunter walk-off homer brought the Tigers back from a two-run ninth inning deficit to salvage the final game of a four-game series in Detroit. It was a series in which Oakland dominated and tormented Detroit and paid no mind to being on the road.

So when the Tigers bats were stagnate, putting up just one run against A’s starter Scott Kazmir, spoiling another terrific start from Anibal Sanchez, it seemed like Oakland’s dominance in Detroit would continue.

Prior to the game, the Tigers honored members of their last title on the 30th anniversary of the 1984 World Series season. A decade earlier, Carlos Pena hit a walk-off homer to win a game that also honored the team on its 20th anniversary, so perhaps a bit of magic was in the air.

After a patented bullpen meltdown in the eighth inning, a 1-1 game turned into a 4-1 Oakland lead. Sean Doolittle, who had been great as Oakland’s closer, appeared to have an easy path to a save. The Tigers, sending the bottom of the lineup up in the ninth inning, would not go quietly.

Nick Castellanos and Alex Avila each reached base on a single to bring up Austin Jackson. AJax was in the middle of a horrendous slump and was striking out on a remarkable pace, but he worked a nine-pitch walk to bring up Rajai Davis.

Davis, if you remember, helped another game against Oakland reach this Top 10, #7 on May 27th when Davis created havoc on the bases to manufacture the game-winning run.

He could be the hero again.

And he was.

Davis hit one of his eight home runs in 2014, launching it to left field, just tucking in the stands for a grand slam, the third of his career–remarkable for a non-home run hitter.

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Comerica Park went bananas. It was the first time the feat had happened for the Tigers since Lou Whitaker hit what’s called a super walk off grand slam (grand slam to win the game when your team is losing by three runs) in a 1994 victory over the New York Yankees. Alan Trammell was on base in that game and in attendance for Davis’ crazy winner.

It was the second walk-off stunner in as many regular season games between the rivals in Detroit. The loss seemed to stun the A’s as they uncharacteristically lost three straight games and were swept at Comerica Park. At the time many national pundits wrote it off as Oakland being tired after a long road trip, but it was a sign of things to come. While Oakland got hot after leaving Detroit, the second half of their season was a disaster.

This was the most entertaining, dramatic and emotional Tigers’ game of 2014. Thus it is fitting it has been named our top game of the year.

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