It's crucial that Jeremy Bonderman pitch well down the stretch if the Tigers are going to have a chance to make the playoffs. He was not dominant today but he got the ball over the plate and kept it low. The results were good - just one run in 7 innings and a 6-1 victory. On the heels of a rare no strikeout game in his previous start, he struck out only 3 today but his control was excellent - 63 of 87 pitches were strikes. He also had the Royals hitting it on the ground - 13 ground balls and 5 fly balls. Perhaps most impressive of all was his first scoreless first inning since July 19th versus the Twins.
Just as important as Bonderman's pitching was the outstanding defensive support he received. Ramon Santiago was at short today, Carlos Guillen at first and Placido Polanco and Brandon Inge at second and third as usual. The quartet put on quite a fielding show today saving maybe a half dozen hits and almost surely some runs. Santiago, in particular, was spectacular and with Sean Casey slumping badly (.235/.262/.333), we may see quite a bit more of Guillen at first and Santiago at short down the stretch.
The bullpen continued to come through as Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya each pitched a perfect inning to close out the game. Rodney has now had 10 consecutive scoreless appearances since returning from the disabled list. The bullpen was the team's achilles heel in the first half but now it seems to be turning into a strength with several fine performances over the last few weeks. In this series alone, they pitched 12 shutout innings.
Offensively, they broke the game open with a 4 run 5th inning highlighted by home runs off the bats of Curtis Granderson and Magglio Ordonez. In between the homers were doubles by Placido Polanco and Timo Perez. Curtis Granderson went 3 for 4 with a sacrifice fly and came closer to the quadruple 20:
18 home runs
17 stolen bases
Magglio Ordonez also had 3 hits to raise his league leading batting average to .359. Placido Polanco and Timo Perez (who was the designated hitter and batted third) added two hits apiece.
So, the Tigers had one of those rare days when the offense, pitching and defense all came together and they salvaged one game of the three game series. Unfortunately, they remain 4 1/2 behind the Indians who just beat the Mariners 6-5 on a walk off walk. The Tigers now head to Oakland for a three game series with Virgil Vasquez opposing Joe Blanton in game 1 tomorrow night.