The much anticipated series between baseball's best team and baseball's hottest team got underway tonight before over 40,000 fans in the Metrodome, one of the game's noisiest stadiums. The raging Twins (12 of 14 and 34 of 42) came into the game tied for second place 8 1/2 games behind the Tigers. Like so many games recently, it was a playoff atmosphere tonight. Pitching for the Twins was rookie Francisco Liriano, Major League Baseball's ERA leader at 1.93. He was facing Tiger rookie Zach Miner who had given up 10 runs over 6 2/3 innings in his last two starts. The odds weren't too good for the Tigers but they've been beating the odds all year and tonight would be no different. The Tigers outdueled the Twins 3-2 in a tension filled 10 inning game won on a single by Craig Monroe in the top of the final frame.
The Tigers scored two runs off Liriano in the first when Curtis Granderson singled, Placido Polanco walked and Magglio Ordonez hit a two run double. For the next 7 2/3 inning, the Twins rookie pitched like a Cy Young candidate allowing no more runs and just one more hit before departing after 8 innings. In all, he pitched 8 innings giving up just 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks and tying a career high with 12 strike outs.
Fortunately, for the Tigers, Miner pitched a solid game allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings. Jamie Walker followed with 2 scoreless innings and Fernando Rodney pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. The game was tied 2-2 after 9 innings.
Shelton led off the 10th with a single, went to second on a sacrifice by Vance Wilson and to third on an infield hit by Polanco. With runners on first and third and two outs, Craig Monroe stepped up to the plate. Monroe had struck out 3 times and hit into a double play his first 4 times up and looked hopeless doing it. However, Monroe sems to have a knack of coming through with a big hit just when you're about ready to give up on him. Tonight he did it again - a single to left off Juan Rincon to put the Tigers up 3-2.
Todd Jones, who has now gone 12 straight games without allowing a run, pitched a 1-2-3 10th to get the save. Jones received a lot of criticism from fans in the early going, and deservedly so, but he has been pretty solid for about a month now. The Tigers are now 8 1/2 games ahead of the White Sox (who beat the Orioles today 6-4) and 9 1/2 ahead of the Twins. They are seemingly running away from all of baseball with the nearest team (the Red Sox) 7 games behind.