The Detroit Tigers’ Greatest Dodger Stadium Moments
The 2010 Detroit Tigers dropped both the Friday night and Saturday afternoon games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in their return to the ballpark in L.A. Brennan Boesch, Detroit’s rookie left fielder, shined in the latter, a 6-4 loss on May 22.
Boesch went to Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles and became the first alum to play Major League Baseball when he debuted with the Tigers a month earlier. He led off the top of the eighth with his fourth home run of the season. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Boesch’s ground rule double (his 10th double) drove Johnny Damon home. The late-inning spurt at the plate jacked his sensational 24-game slash line up to .352/.362/.637.
Naturally, young Brennan grew up as an L.A. Dodgers fan. In an interview with Jill Painter from Southern California’s Daily Bulletin, Boesch shared what the experience of playing at Dodger Stadium for the first time as a big leaguer meant to him. He said,
"“Oh man, I’m really expecting a ton of emotions. I’m focused on helping my team win and not getting caught up in the personal feelings. I’m making it my goal to enjoy it. For me, Dodger Stadium was the best day ever when I went as a kid. There’s a lot of emotional ties there… We had season tickets and when I was young, we sat up in the blue section. It was awesome. The Dodgers were really good when I was a kid. I remember some great teams. I always loved the rookies, interestingly enough. I loved the good ones like (Mike) Piazza and (Hideo) Nomo and all those guys. I have a lot of good memories.”"
May 23, 2010
The Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium began on a somber note. Before the finale of the three-game series, a moment of silence was observed in honor of José Lima. The beloved pitcher who popularized the catchphrase “Lima Time”, died that morning at the age of 37. Lima is on the all-time roster of both the Detroit Tigers (1994-96, 2001-02) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2004).
The news, which Vin Scully shared with TV viewers in Los Angeles that day, was quite a shock. Lima attended the Friday night series-opener between the teams, which the Dodgers won, 4-1. The crowd on hand gave Lima a huge ovation when he appeared on the Dodger Stadium video board that evening. During Scully’s Sunday broadcast, he delivered an in-game eulogy as wonderfully as only Vin Scully could.
Two of Lima’s former teammates in Detroit, Ramon Santiago and Brandon Inge, were in the Tigers’ starting lineup against the Dodgers (at shortstop and third base, respectively) for this game. Santiago commented,
"“(Lima) was like a father to me when I came to the Tigers (in 2002). He bought me five suits. He gave me advice. He was one of the greatest teammates I ever had.”"
The Tigers needed a win to avoid being swept by the Dodgers, and they went on the attack against right-hander Hiroki Kuroda right away. Leadoff man Johnny Damon, in his only season with the team, doubled to left. Santiago, who returns to Dodger Stadium with the 2022 Detroit Tigers as a coach, sacrificed Damon to second. Magglio Ordoñez knocked Damon in with a single to center.
Miguel Cabrera strode to the plate. He was in the midst of a 6.5 bWAR season, one which saw him lead the American League with a .420 OBP, 178 OPS+, and 126 RBI. Miggy drove Kuroda’s second pitch to left field and it stayed just fair enough for a two-run home run to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. It was Miggy’s 10th homer. He went on to lead the team with 38. It was a pitch that Kuroda rued. Through an interpreter, the Japanese-born hurler later remarked,
"“(Cabrera) was obviously waiting for that pitch inside, so I could’ve thrown it a little bit more inside, now that I think about it.”"
Kuroda shook off his rough first inning and kept the Tigers off the board for the next four. In the third inning, Cabrera reached on an error and actually stole a base. Rookie Danny Worth, who debuted a week earlier, singled twice off Kuroda. (Worth, like his teammate Boesch, was a Southern California native who grew up rooting for the Dodgers.) Santiago added a single, but otherwise the Tigers posed no further threat to the Los Angeles starter.
Rick the Dodger?
Meanwhile, Tigers starter Rick Porcello had pitched four scoreless innings. He was helped by double plays in the first two innings and pitched a 1-2-3 third. He pitched around a couple fourth-inning singles and left runners stranded on the corners.
Not only was Porcello pitching against the Dodgers, he needed to be a dodger himself. He was unable to dodge three balls off Los Angeles bats that were lined right at him. He gloved the first one and turned it into a double play by catching a Dodgers runner who strayed too far from second base in the first inning. In the fourth and fifth innings, line drives hit Porcello in the right arm and right leg. He was able to at least turn the former into a force out at second, but the latter rolled away for a single. Porcello, who incurred only a bruise on the arm, said,
"“I saw them all for a split-second. I think that the hardest ball that was hit back at me was the one that (Matt) Kemp that I caught. I didn’t have time to move, and it kind of found its way into my glove, really.”"
That fifth-inning single was the impetus for a two-run Dodgers rally that trimmed the Tigers’ lead to 3-2. Two more singles and a walk contributed to the damage. Perhaps surprisingly, Porcello returned to the mound for the sixth. It looked like it was going to be a nice bounceback inning for the 21-year-old, who was in his sophomore season with Detroit. He retired the first two hitters, but the Dodgers struck back with three straight singles to load the bases.
A Dodgers Threat
The Tigers were in a tough spot. Kuroda was due up, but his day was over. Joe Torre, who was closing out a Hall of Fame managerial career with the Dodgers in 2010, had Manny Ramirez at his disposal. Ramirez stepped up to pinch-hit. Detroit skipper Jim Leyland stuck with Porcello.
Ramirez, who was a week away from his 38th birthday, had hit 21 grand slams in his career. However, he’d never crossed paths with Rick Porcello before. Manny’s original 15-year run in the American League had ended before “Kid Rick” made it to the majors. The youngster got the aging slugger to groundout harmlessly to Inge at third base on the very first pitch. The Dodgers threat was over, and the Tigers 3-2 lead was intact. Porcello said,
"“I was trying to get a good sinker in on his hands. The pitch went pretty much where I wanted it.”"
The game became a battle of the bullpens from there. Los Angeles sent the former Tiger Jeff Weaver out for seventh inning. This was Weaver’s second stint in the famous Dodger blue. After the first one ended, he pitched for three major league teams in two years, then spent 2008 in the minors. L.A. brought him back in 2009 as a reliever. This would be his final season in the bigs. Weaver pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
Porcello, the Tigers’ first round pick in 2007, was relieved by Ryan Perry, the Tigers’ first round pick in 2008. Like Ricky, Ryan was in his second season as a major leaguer. (Perry had actually debuted with Detroit one day before Porcello did.) Perry got the first two outs in the seventh on fly balls to the outfield. He then struck Matt Kemp out swinging to end the inning. It was a big out and a nice outing for the 23-year-old righty.
A Tigers Surge
In the top of the eighth, it was righty reliever Ronald Belasario’s turn to tame the Tigers. He struck out Santiago. That brought Ordoñez up. In the matchup between two Venezuelans, Detroit’s hitter got the better of the Los Angeles pitcher. Magglio hit his sixth home run of the season, a shot to left-center. The Tigers led, 4-2, but the Dodgers weren’t ready to go away.
Perry walked leadoff hitter James Loney in the eighth. After getting his next man, Perry gave way to lefty Phil Coke. Veteran Garret Anderson, a longtime American Leaguer appearing in his final MLB season, greeted Coke with a single to center. Ronnie Belliard hit into a 4-6-3 double play to let the eccentric Detroit southpaw off the hook.
The Tigers added a couple more runs in the top of the ninth to boost their lead to 6-2. Though it wasn’t a save situation, closer José Valverde was tasked with getting the Dodgers out in the bottom of the ninth. He struck Jamey Carroll out swinging. Pinch-hitter Reed Johnson singled, which brought up Russell Martin. Like Coke before him, Valverde was the recipient of a clutch 4-6-3 double play. The game was over. “Papa Grande” and his teammates celebrated a nice victory to avoid being broomed out of town.
Oddly enough, the Tigers’ triumph and the Los Angeles loss left each team with identical 25-19 records. Detroit came into the game trailing the Minnesota Twins by two games in the AL Central, while the Dodgers and San Diego Padres were tied for first place in the NL West. Neither team made the playoffs in 2010. The Tigers leveled out at 81-81, and the Dodgers stumbled to an 80-82 finish.
The Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers would meet at Dodger Stadium once again the following season.