It's been a familiar pattern this year. The Tigers get a well pitched game but the bats go silent for seven innings or so. You think it's a 3-1 loss and you look at the scoreboard to see what the Twins and White Sox are doing. Then the Tigers rally in the eighth or ninth inning to win it.
Today, the Tigers were held to one run for seven innings by six-foot-nine-inch Rays starter Jeff Niemann. With the Tigers down 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Clete Thomas doubled down the right field line to lead off the inning. Clete is only batting a modest .250 with a .736 OPS but he always seems to be involved in their late inning rallies this year. Niemann retired the next two batters but then was replaced by Grant Balfour. Balfour proceeded to pitch very carefully to Curtis Granderson and walked him to put two men on with two out.
It was up to Placido Polanco to keep the inning going. He hit what looked like a fairly routine fly ball to left but the ball kept carrying over the fence. Left fielder Carl Crawford made a leaping attempt but he fell short and the Tigers had taken a 4-3 lead.
Fernando Rodney, who has actually become a calming presence (at least for me) on the mound as of late, pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve the win. Fernando now has 29 saves in 30 opportunities and has held the opponent scoreless in 18 of his last 22 appearances.
Meanwhile, the White Sox lost another one to the Yankees to fall six games back and the Twins trail the Rangers 3-2 in the seventh. The Twins are five games behind pending the outcome of that game.