Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dramatic Day Ends in Split

It's days like this which make me appreciate how difficult it must be to be a professional beat writer having to finish an interesting and coherent article by the end of game. It's difficult to write anything intelligent an hour after such an emotionally draining day of baseball. Never mind writing during the game. It would not be an exaggeration to say that today had all the drama of two playoff games.

I was unable to watch the first game at work but had the radio on in the background as I did my SAS programming. It was a tense frustrating game with the Tigers squandering several early scoring opportunities versus Twins starter Nick Blackburn. Blackburn settled down later and went 7 innings allowing just one run. In an equally impressive performance, Rick Porcello allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings in the biggest game of his very young life so far.

The game was tied one to one after nine but then the Twins became Twins in the 10th. They scored two runs on two singles, two walks, two sacrifices and most notably two wild pitches by the usually dependable Brandon Lyon. What is it about the Twins which brings out the worst in the Tigers? The Bengals made a bid in the bottom of the inning when Curtis Granderson belted his 29th home run to make it 3-2. The unbeatable Joe Nathan stopped them cold after that though.

It looked for a while like game two would be an easy one as the Tigers built up a 5-0 lead with Justin Verlander cruising through five. There is no such thing as an easy game against the Twins though. The Twins starting weaving their evil magic scoring two in the sixth and two more in the eighth. Jim Leyland left Verlander in to throw a season high 129 pitches. After a visit to the mound by Leyland with the score 5-4, Verlander retired Michael Cuddyer to end the eighth.

Granderson padded the lead in the bottom of the eighth with his second homer of the day and 30th of the year. The suddenly red hot Granderson now has 10 hits in his last 16 at bats.

Fernando Rodney entered the game in the ninth with a 6-4 lead and things got very interesting. Spooky even. It would have been a one two three inning except for an improbable misplay (ruled a single) by the generally sure handed Placido Polanco. Then Nick Punto (who is seemingly involved in every Twins late inning horror show) hit what looked like a game ending fly ball to Granderson in center field but Curtis misjudged it badly. Two bad plays by two reliable fielders. This could only happen against the Twins.

Rodney finally got out number three (actually five) on a fly ball to Ryan Raburn. It was hit right two him but no Tiger fan felt safe until it was secure in his glove.

The doubleheader split kept the Tigers up by two games with two games to go in the series and five in the season. They are now guaranteed at least a tie going into the final weekend but they really need one more win in this series for it to be considered a success. It won't be easy with Eddie Bonine and Nate Robertson facing Carl Pavano and Scott Baker. Tonight's win has me thinking optimistically again though.

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