Friday, May 08, 2009

Granderson's Leap Saves Verlander Gem

It was a classic pitcher's duel between Cliff Lee and Justin Verlander tonight. Lee left after eight allowing just one run. Verlander was dominant for eight innings and had a 1-0 lead going into the ninth. Justin walked the lead off man and then forced him at second on a grounder back to the mound. Then up came Grady Sizemore who blasted a long fly to center which looked like a two run game winning homer. But Curtis Granderson ran back, climbed the nine foot wall, reached his glove over the wall, grabbed the ball and pulled it back for a spectacular game saving catch. Grandy had robbed the rival star center fielder by making one of the best plays in a crucial situation I've ever seen.

It would have been a shame had Verlander lost the game as he tossed a gem, probably the second best game of his career behind the no hitter in 2007. Not only was it a rare complete game shutout but he allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out 11. Justin now has back to back double figure strikeouts for the first time in his career and his 31 strikeouts in three games is also a career best. The Major League strikeout leader (with 56) also received some earlier help from his defense. Ryan Raburn made a diving catch in left field in the fifth and Adam Everett made a diving stab starting a double play in the seventh.

The Tigers scored their only run with some small ball in the eighth. Granderson walked with one out. He then stole second on a failed hit and run attempt by Placido Polanco. Polanco eventually grounded out sending Grandy to third. Finally, Clete Thomas hit a soft roller to second which looked like the final out but rookie second baseman Luis Valbuena double pumped and the hustling Thomas beat it out. That run turned out to be all they needed. Just barely.

I've been watching games since 1968 but this is one of the best I've ever seen. It was a great pitcher's duel with a thrilling finish. It's one we'll be talking about for the rest of the year and probably longer. Tonight is why we all love this game.

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