Friday, August 13, 1999
Time was running out at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Tiger Stadium was in its final season, and team had returned to Detroit to begin the first of the ballpark’s last four homestands. Many in the crowd of 32,003 on this evening were likely there for nostalgic reasons, since the ’99 Tigers (45-69) hadn’t been giving them much to cheer for.
Rookie righty Dave Borkowski, who was born in Detroit and went to high school in Sterling Heights, took the mound for the Tigers against the Anaheim Angels. It was his sixth big-league start and only his second at the ballpark he’d often visited as a fan in his younger years. He went on to start Tiger Stadium’s penultimate game on September 26. Borkowski’s counterpart was veteran righty Tim Belcher, who spent one miserable season with the Tigers in 1994.
Borkowski gave up one run in the top of the first. In the bottom half, his catcher, Brad Ausmus, found himself hitting leadoff for the first time anywhere since 1996. Manager Larry Parrish slotted him there because Ausmus could “take a pitch and work the count”. The future manager of both the Tigers and Angels did his job by working the count full before walking. Deivi Cruz singled, and Juan Encarnacion was hit by a pitch. With one out, Tony Clark singled through the hole between short and third to drive Ausmus in with the tying run. Damion Easley’s grounder forced Clark at second, but Cruz scored. Second baseman Jeff Huson made a bad throw trying to complete the double play, and that allowed Encarnacion to score. Easley was safe on the error. The Tigers took a 3-1 lead.
Troy Glaus got a run back for the Angels with his second-inning home run. In the fourth, a Tim Salmon single and Jim Edmonds triple tied the game at 3-3. After the Angels tagged Borkowski for three runs in the fifth, Parrish replaced him with Masao Kida. Detroit’s Japanese righty gave up a run in the sixth. The Angels were up 7-3.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Dean Palmer hit his 28th home run of the season. Palmer had signed with the Tigers as a free agent the previous November. He led the 1999 Tigers with 38 homers, 100 RBI, and 92 runs, but he came into this game stuck in a 2-for-28 slump. Later in the inning, Easley singled and Frank Catalanotto followed with a two-run homer. That cut the Detroit deficit to 7-6. Cat’s shot, his 10th of the year, knocked Belcher out of the game.
Angels reliever Mark Petkovsek did his job by retiring all five Tigers he faced, but after he struck out Encarnacion to begin the eighth inning, manager Terry Collins called on All-Star closer Troy Percival. The future Tiger won a seven-pitch battle with Palmer, who struck out on a curve ball. That brought up Clark. With the count even at 2-2, Percival tried to get a changeup past the 6-foot-8 slugger. It was a pitch that the right-handed relief ace had been experimenting with that season. Against Clark, it didn’t work. Tony the Tiger, the switch-hitter who was batting from the left side, belted it into the left-field stands for a game-tying home run. It was his 20th dinger of the year.
Percival had made his MLB debut against the Tigers in 1995. This was his 22nd appearance against them. Thorugh 23 2/3 innings, he hadn’t given up an earned run against Detroit until Clark took him deep on that ill-fated changeup. A distraught Percival lamented,
"“That’s my third-best pitch, and that was a bad time to throw it. I didn’t stay aggressive, which is what I normally do. It was a stupid mistake…I left it up and out over the plate, and he got it pretty good.”"
In the ninth, Tigers reliever Doug Brocail and Percival each threw 1-2-3 innings to send the game to extras. Detroit closer Todd Jones picked up where Brocail left off. He struck out Salmon and Edmonds, then needed one pitch to retire Todd Greene on a grounder to short. Anaheim countered with Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the bottom of the tenth. He would be facing the top of the Tigers’ lineup. Ausmus drove a single up the middle into center field. Cruz laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner up. Ausmus advanced to third when Encarnacion flew out to right.
That brought Palmer up. He lined a single to center, and Ausmus scored to seal the deal on an 8-7, 10-inning victory that made the post-game fireworks even more festive. It was Palmer’s third hit of the game. Luckily for the Tigers, the skipper didn’t take his third baseman up on his pre-game suggestion. Parrish said,
"“The funny thing is that Dean poked his head into my office before the game and said ‘The way I’ve been scuffling, maybe you shouldn’t play me tonight’.”"