Just when you thought the Detroit Tigers couldn’t find another way to rip the hearts out of their fans’ chests, they did just that, giving up a game ending passed ball, which let the New York Yankees walk off the field with a 7-6 win Friday.
If there was ever a day when the Tigers needed their stopper, ace Justin Verlander, to step up and earn a win, it was Friday night. The team was on the verge of dropping its fourth straight game, a loss that would have put them at the .500 mark for the first time in almost a year. Not only would it drop them to .500, but it would drop the team to third in the division.
Detroit is usually always confident when Verlander is toeing the rubber, but he looked like the pitcher who was victimized by the Yankees in his first start of the playoffs last year instead of the defending MVP. It was anything but a successful start for him, as he came in sporting a sub-two ERA and ended the day with one just under two and a half. He threw six innings of up and down baseball, giving up five runs, four earned on seven hits. While he did strike out four and didn’t walk anyone, it wasn’t the best outing of his career. New York had runners on the base paths most innings and always seemed to be threatening.
Perhaps the biggest plus for Detroit is that they started to turn the corner when it comes to some of their offensive issues. Detroit has been unable to drive runners home when they are in scoring position in recent games, but Friday night they were 5-19. While it is still down right awful, with them only hitting .260 with a runner at second and third, it is much better than they have been hitting in the last few games.
The most productive hitter in the lineup had to have been Austin Jackson, who had four hits in five at-bats and knocked in two runners, while scoring twice himself. In fact, it was Jackson and new call-up Brad Eldred who helped get the offense rolling. Eldred tripled to left field in the second to score Don Kelly and tie the game up. While the Tigers couldn’t drive Eldred in, Jackson got the offense going again in the third by opening the inning off with a single. Three straight singles by Brennan Boesch, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder after Jackson helped the team take the first lead of the day.
While the two teams battled back and fourth, a three run sixth inning gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead. It looked like they might be able to hold on to the lead too, that is until Joaquin Benoit took the mound. Detroit’s setup man blew the save in the eighth, giving up one walk and two hits. It turned out to be the turning point in the game, as the Tigers would never mount any other offense in game.
With a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, Detroit sent Brayan Villarreal to the mound with the task of finishing off the scariest part of the Yankees lineup. After issuing a Derek Jeter walk, a wild pitch and a passed ball allowed him to move from first base all the way to home plate in just a matter of minutes. Sure Villarreal could have been better, but the defensively solid catcher Alex Avila allowed a ball to trickle away from him that left the door open for Jeter to run home. The loss allowed the Tigers to fall back to .500 for the first time in a long time and on the verge of entering into panic mode.