Today's game wasn't easy but, for the second time this year, the Tigers swept the Twins in Minnesota. They gave up single runs in each of the last 4 innings and had to work out of 2 bases loaded jams but the Tigers held on to beat the Twins 6-4. Two sweeps in the Metrodome in the same season. Who would have thought that was possible?
With the Indians losing 4-3 to the Royals, the victory moved the Tigers to within 4 1/2 of the division lead. Perhaps more importantly, they are just 2 games behind the Yankees in the wild card race pending the outcome of the Yankees/Red Sox game tonight. Regardless of the outcome of tonight's game, it's been a great weekend of baseball reminiscent of the 1987 race with the Blue Jays. That's a much better feeling than August which felt more like the ill fated 1988 race.
I was hoping that Jair Jurrjens could give them another 5-6 solid innings today and he did just that. He pitched no hit ball for 5 1/3 innings before allowing a double to Nick Punto and a triple to Jason Tyner. He was taken out after that but the 21 year old pitched another great game - 1 run on 2 hits and a walk to go with 6 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He left with a 4-1 lead and it stayed that way as Tim Byrdak got the last two outs with no further damage being done.
The last three innings were nail biters. Byrdak returned to the mound for the 6th inning and got himself in trouble with a three base throwing error on a squibber to the left of the mound. On the very next play, left fielder Timo Perez misplayed a soft liner by Brian Buscher and a run scored making it 4-2. Chris Heintz followed with single but the Tigers got very fortunate when Buscher went through the stop sign at third base and was easily thrown out at the plate. Byrdak allowed another hit in the inning but got out of the inning with no further damage.
The Tigers were leading 6-2 going to the bottom of the 8th but the game was far from over. A walk by Bryrdak and 2 more walks by Fernando Rodney loaded the bases with 2 outs. Joel Zumaya then came in and allowed a bases loaded walk to make it 6-3. It was looking like a Metrodome meltdown as pinch hitter Joe Mauer came up to the plate but Zoom put out the fire by striking him out on 3 pitches.
Then came the 9th and Todd Jones was looking for his third save in the series. Luis Rodriguez led off with a triple and Nick Punto followed with a single. It was now 6-4 and the Piranhas were on the attack. Jones retired the next 2 batters but then Torii Hunter singlesd and Justin Morneau drew a walk to load the bases. Jones finally got out of it on a nice force play turned by Ramon Santiago and Placido Polanco. The save was the 300th of the roller coaster's career and it's appropriate that #300 was a classic Todd Jones save.
The Tigers got off to a great start offensively when Curtis Granderson hit his 22nd homer of the year over the baggy in right. I'm getting into arbitrary cutoffs now but Granderson is the first player in the history of the game to reach the quadruple 22. the Tigers scored 2 more in the second on singles by Timo Perez and Ramon Santiago, a throwing error by pitcher Scott Baker and a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Brandon Inge scoring Santiago. As you can imagine, the squeeze made Rod Allen quite happy. They went up 4-0 in the 3rd when Gary Sheffield doubled and Magglio Ordonez singled him in.
For a while, the 4 run lead looked safe but they needed more and they got them in the 8th. Carlos Guillen doubled in one run and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Pudge Rodriguez. That gave them a 6-2 lead at the time and from there it was up to the bullpen.
The Tigers now go to Cleveland for a 3 game series. It will be Kenny Rogers, Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson trying to do their Jack Morris, Frank Tanana and Doyle Alexander imitations versus Paul Byrd, Jake Westbrook and CC Sabathia. At the same time, the Yankees will host a three game series with the Orioles.