The Tigers went into tonight's game with a 3 1/2 game lead over the visiting White Sox but there was still a good deal of anxiety among 40,000 fans at Comerica and hundreds of thousands of viewers and listeners across Michigan and the rest of the country. The White Sox had hammered the Tigers 7-1 last night and had taken 6 of the first 7 games of the season series. The game had the sense of urgency of a classic pennant race game. It almost had a playoff feel to it.
Jeremy Bonderman got the fans into it right away by striking out the side in the first inning. He followed that up with a quick 1-2-3 second inning. He looked unhittable until Joe Crede, the Tiger Killer stepped up to the plate to lead off the 3rd. Crede lined a homerun to left field to break a scoreless tie. It was Crede's 16th home run in 4 years versus the Tigers. This all too common sight made Tiger fans uncomfortable in a hurry. Juan Uribe added a solo shot in the 5th to give the White Sox a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, Javier Vazquez had retired 8 in a row and it looked like another White Sox game was slipping away.
With frustrated Tiger fans waiting for a chance to burst, the Tigers finally came through with three consecutive singles by Placido Polanco, Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez in the bottom of the 6th. Carlos Guillen followed with a bloop single to center which loaded the bases. although Rodriguez was nearly thrown out at third on a rare force play. Rodriguez was then forced at home on a Marcus Thames grounder to shortstop.
With the base loaded, Craig Monroe came to the plate. With Monroe struggling much of the season, most fans were hoping for a sacrifice fly at this point. He gave them a lot more than that though. He smashed a fly ball into the left field seats for a grand slam putting his team in front 5-2. The Comerica Park crowd finally had a chance to explode.
The Tiger pitching staff did not let the lead get away. Bonderman went 7 1/3 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk with 6 strike outs. He now has a 3.53 ERA for the season and 2.31 since June 1. Fernando Rodney got the last two outs in the 8th. Jamie Walker retired Jim Thome on a grounder to start the 9th. Todd Jones finshed it off allowing 1 hit and no runs in 2/3 of an inning. The final score was 5-2 Tigers.
Tonight's game was one of the most satisfying wins of the year and Monroe's slam should go down as one of the season's memorable moments. One of many. The series finale will match Kenny Rogers against Jose Contreras tomorrow night.