The Tigers defeated the Chicago White Sox by a score of 4-2, to move to within a half-game and 21 hours of first-place on Friday night.
Before a packed Comerica Park, the Tigers countered every move that Chicago made. The Tigers won this game with timely production by almost everyone in the lineup, with seven different players getting hits, many huge defensive plays, and a pitching performance that all but shut down the White Sox.
Justin Verlander was the anticipated star of the night, with eight innings of great baseball. Verlander was shaky in the first couple of innings, giving up his only two runs of the night with an Alejandro De Aza home run in the 3rd inning. From then on, however, Verlander was virtually unhittable. In innings 4-8, Verlander gave up one hit, had four strikeouts, and kept Chicago from getting back into the game, with 100 mph fastballs deep into the 8th inning.
Offensively, the Tigers had a very balanced attack, with one inning as the turning point for the game. In the middle of the 3rd inning, the Tigers were down 2-0, and White Sox starter Jake Peavy was pitching out of his mind. Even with the bottom of the order coming up, the Tigers put together enough quality at-bats to put two men on for Miguel Cabrera. Three batters and three base hits later, the Tigers were on top, 3-2. Cabrera singled to score Jhonny Peralta, Prince Fielder singled to score Quintin Berry, and Delmon Young doubled to score Cabrera. All with two outs. All plays that kept moving guys over, kept the inning alive, and kept the momentum going.
After the 3rd inning, both starters had found their groove. Justin Verlander, as mentioned earlier, was unstoppable. Jake Peavy, almost as good. (The Tigers would score in the bottom of the 7th, with Austin Jackson singling home Jhonny Peralta. But that inning consisted of a balk and groundouts to move Peralta over, not the most inspiring.)
The biggest impression that I had from this game is that everyone is contributing, and the Tigers are beginning to gel into a cohesive team. It took a little while, but so did the 2011 Tigers. Nationally, most writers picked the Tigers to win the division because of Cabrera and Fielder knocking balls out and Verlander as the MVP pitcher, that’s about it. The star power was what everyone expected to carry this team, and in some games, it has. But baseball, despite being a very individualized sport, is still a team game. And tonight, even the star Tigers didn’t have amazing nights. Verlander gave up two runs in a bad inning, Cabrera and Fielder only hit singles and doubles. Instead, everyone else on the team came up big when needed, and that combined effort paid off in one half-inning that ended with a victory. Those are the games that win divisions, leagues, and championships, and these games add up over time.
Tonight’s game ended with a diving catch by Quintin Berry for the last out. Quintin Berry, a guy that only the most die-hard Tiger fans knew at the start of the year. Sure, Justin, Miguel, and Prince can come up big in October. But it’s the unexpected heroes that can make the biggest impact. And recently, the Tigers seem to always have those kinds of guys each day.
Gordon Fall has been around the Detroit sports scene for his entire life and even entered the world with a Red Wings hockey stick in hand. With a variety of connections around the Detroit area, Fall will be presenting the unspoken, yet optimistic truth of our city’s sports scene.