The Tigers’ winning streak came to an end Wednesday night, as the New York Yankees pulled away in the last couple of innings to win 12-8, before a sold-out Comerica Park. The Yankees lit up Detroit pitching for virtually the entire game, and the Tigers could never tie the game despite a couple of big rallies.
New York came out hitting to begin, as Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez struggled in his third start. Curtis Granderson, forever remembered as a Tiger, did the most damage, with a run-scoring single in the 1st inning and a three-run homer in the 3rd. Mixed in were a lot of sharp singles to the outfield, hit batters, walks, and general struggles from Sanchez. Even worse, the first five runs scored off of Sanchez came with two outs, as he could never close out a rallying Yankees team. Sanchez’s night ended in the 4th inning, as three straight hits started the inning with even more scoring. Duane Below came from the bullpen to quell the damage, and held the Yankees to one more run off of a sacrifice fly. After 3.5 innings, the Yankees led 7-0.
For most games, this would be it for the night. The leading team would start to count down the outs, the losing team would occasionally have a rally, but every substitution would come in at some point, just to get some big-league reps.
Not with these Tigers.
It might have been a thing of team pride, a refusal to go down without a fight. It might have been an attitude that all games against the Yankees are virtual playoff games. Whatever it was, the Tigers simply refused to lose.
In the bottom of the 4th, new Tiger Jeff Baker doubled to deep right, and Brennan Boesch hit him in with a single. 7-1. CC Sabathia, the Yankees’ acclaimed starter, was showing signs of weakness. But still, the Yankees were winning by 6, and Detroit did nothing in the 5th inning. The game was still basically over.
Then, a weird thing happened. Prince Fielder beat out an infield hit in the 6th inning, a minor baseball miracle and incredible baseball anomaly. Prince, to say the least, isn’t the kind of player who would typically beat out the throw. Fielder’s hustle sparked a 2-run inning, with Delmon Young hitting a double to right, Jeff Baker (a great pickup!) singling to score both runners.
Although it didn’t result in a run, another anomaly showed up. Yankees second-baseman Robinson Cano booted an easy grounder, allowing Brennan Boesch to get on base. It was almost like the Yankees expected the Tigers to concede, but Detroit never stopped fighting back. Cano seemed surprised that the Tigers were rallying back, and really wasn’t expecting a ball coming his way. Unfortunately for New York, the Tigers never stopped coming at them.
New York would score one more run in the top of the 7th, making the score 8-3 Yankees. And yet, the Tigers would still come back. The bottom of the 7th featured every manner of scratched out hits, from two infield singles, another error from the Yankees infield, five total hits, and relentless positive momentum from the Tigers’ team and crowd. There was no power in the inning, nothing but singles. It was simply one bloop hit after another, with the Tigers repeatedly hitting balls where Yankees were not, to New York’s bemused frustration. The Tigers would score four runs in the half-inning, on four different run-scoring hits. It was an incredible inning of grit. Alas, Ramon Santiago could not keep it going, smacking a ball into the infield shift to end the inning with Boesch on second and Alex Avila on first. Detroit rallied for four, enough to make up the deficit created by Anibal Sanchez, but not enough to catch the Yankees’ run in the top of the inning. 8-7 Yankees after 7.
Once that inning ended, the Yankees kept scoring, to further distance them from the Tigers. Two runs in the 8th, and two more in the 9th kept the Tigers from ever getting that close to taking the lead. Even then, the Yankees were somewhat confused by the whole thing, as the Tigers refused to back down.
Wednesday night’s game was a loss, yes, but it showed more of the Tigers than the box score would allow. Detroit kept striking back, patiently doing the little things to get back into the game. The Tigers didn’t implode, as we would have seen earlier in the season, or during last year’s playoff finale in Texas. Instead, the Tigers kept trying to come back, all as one, no one trying to do too much to be the hero.
It was a great thing to see, as these kinds of teams win in October, and handling adversity has to happen at some point. Teams that cannot handle stress will break down at some point, like the Tigers in 2009. Teams that can handle stress can do amazing things, like last year’s Cardinals, and more throughout baseball’s history books. The 2012 Tigers might just be one of those latter teams.
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.