Sale Cancelled! Tigers Dirks Leads Rally To Deny Sox Ace

by Jon Erkkila | Posted on Sunday, September 22nd, 2013
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Andy Dirks

When it’s your year…it’s your year. In the AL Central, it’s the Tigers’ year.

When it’s not your year…you have a constipated look on your face like the one permanently affixed on White Sox manager Robin Ventura’s face after the 9th inning on Saturday night in Detroit (and for much of the season for the matter).

The Detroit Tigers continued their march to a 3rd straight AL Central title with a highly improbable comeback victory over their division rivals/whipping boys from Chicago’s south side. Trailing 6-0 and looking previously devoid of any offensive life, the Tigers went on baserunner binge for a period of about 5-minutes that took a blowout into a dramatic comeback.

The night started off innocently enough. Two young starting pitchers were dueling from the start as Chris Sale and Rick Porcello matched zeros on the scoreboard through the first 6 innings. Porcello was whiffing numerous Sox batters and also shattered at least three bats as the Sox could muster only a minor threat on infield hits in the 4th inning. Porcello seemed to have both his slider and curveball in fine form and that combo was too much for the Sox over the early innings.

Sale on the other hand was trying to mount his last gem as a statement for Cy Young voters to give a guy with a sub-.500 W/L record a serious look. Sale was taking advantage of an aggressive Tigers game plan of attacking Sale early in the count. Sale was able to mostly keep the Tigers off-balance in those spots by missing bats and getting ahead in the count. He was using the Tigers aggressiveness against them masterfully especially when he was baffling hitters with back-to-back changeups more than once.

The White Sox were finally able to break through in the 7th against Porcello. Avisail Garcia narrowly avoided a “strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out” play to end the inning. Jeff Keppinger and Gordon Beckham would then follow with consecutive two-out hits to plate two runs and chase Porcello.

The White Sox would add an insurance run in top of the 8th to make it 3-0 after two Tigers errors. A key moment which looked fairly benign happened in the bottom half of the inning. The Tigers managed to get two base-runners on against Sale and Ventura decided that, despite a non-threatening pitch count, to pull Sale and bring in Nate Jones. Jones would escape the inning with no damage on the scoreboard…but the Tigers had been having next to no success with Sale and he was now out of the game.

It’s the top of the 9th where things get interesting. Observers of the Tigers could make the case that a 3-0 game with 2-3-4 of the Tigers order due up is still a possible assignment for the Kitties even though things don’t look all that great. Keeping the score at 3-0 and then taking their chances most likely against Sox Closer Addison Reed. To keep it at 3-0 the choice for Tigers manager Jim Leyland was to either stick with veteran reliever Jeremy Bonderman and his 5+ ERA or bring in on of his core relievers to keep the deficit manageable. Leyland stuck with Bonderman…a defensible move perhaps…but one that didn’t work. Bonderman would get lit up in the inning and the Sox would pad their lead to a seemingly safe 6-0.
In an odd way, did those runs swing the game the Tigers way? You can’t totally blame Ventura here, since Jones had only faced one batter he elected to just have Jones finish the game instead of bringing on his Closer. If the score had remained at 3-0 it seems likely Reed would have been summoned. But it was Jones on the hill and he went about squandering 5 runs to the Tigers in ultra-quick fashion. Torii Hunter started the Tigers rally with a triple to right-center field. Miguel Cabrera singled him home. Prince Fielder singled the other way. Victor Martinez lashed a double to plate Cabrera. 6-2 and Leyland sends Andy Dirks to pinch hit for Matt Tuiasosopo. First pitch…..BOOM. 3-run shot and it’s suddenly 6-5 and nobody is out. Ventura, understandably, had no one getting hot immediately when it was 6-0 and the inning progressed so fast he did not have Reed ready until after Dirks’ blast.

Bringing in Reed under the stress of the Tigers onslaught was a bit different than bringing him into a normal Save Opportunity. Reed semi-wilted under the strain. He was wild and walked the bases full. Reed was able, with one out, to get Torii Hunter to make an out but it was a flyball that tied the game at 6. The Tigers had climbed the mountain in an utterly amazing inning. Reed then walked Cabrera and Donnie Veal was summoned to retire Prince Fielder to send the game to extra innings.

The rest is pretty predictable, right? The Sox are now 60-94 for a reason. They hung in for a couple of innings. Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque was flashing his best slider however and kept the Sox at bay long enough. In the 12th the Tigers mounted the winning rally on the back of some walks by young Sox hurler Jake Petricka. Omar Infante would scrape a grounder past Petricka with one out and the base loaded that was just enough to plate the game winner.

There it was….another amazing comeback victory the Tigers in a season that has seen them work their way to the precipice of another division crown. The Sox it was another moment for “Sad Hawk” to come out on Comcast SportsNet in Chicago and find new ways to express his exasperation over the state of his club.

The Tigers will send Anibal Sanchez to the mound on Sunday looking to complete a now unexpected sweep (at least when it was 6-0 the sweep looked impossible!) of the Sox and possibly clinch the AL Central if a Sanchez-led victory can be coupled with an Astros victory in Cleveland against the Tribe.

Notes:

  • Miguel Cabrera was lifted in the 10th inning with groin issue. Leyland was quoted by Mlive’s Chris Iott on twitter saying “It don’t think it’s too good.” Definitely another moment of wondering if Cabrera’s lingering injuries will dampen the Tigers post-season hopes.
  • The game was the first time the Tigers had rallied from a 6-run deficit since 1947 against the Washington Senators
  • The Tigers Magic Number for the AL Central crown stands at 2.
  • Tigers SS Jose Iglesias missed his second straight game after luckily avoiding a broken hand after getting nailed with a 95-mph heater on his left hand versus Seattle. Iglesias is “day to day”.
  • Reliever Bruce Rondon was said to have felt okay with his elbow after throwing a bullpen session. There seems to be hope he will pitch this week in a game to see if he contribute on the post-season roster.
  • The accolades for 20-game winner Max Scherzer continue to roll in. The Cy Young Award now seems well within his grasp and he will get one more start against the Minnesota Twins. Scherzer  owns an 11-1 record inside the AL Central.
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Jon Erkkila
About the Author

Jon Erkkila is a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. Currently living in MLB Blackout Hell, otherwise known as Iowa. Follow him on twitter @yooper_ia







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