Each Monday, good or bad, we’ll analyze the biggest theme of the week that was for the Detroit Tigers.
Entering Sunday, Prince Fielder had hit 29 home runs. He had contributed over 100 RBI. It could be argued, however, that none of those hits were big enough to reverberate. The cool Fielder had never really shared his passion during a game. Late Sunday, it became clear his fire is actually an open flame.
In Sunday’s eighth inning, it was a familliar sight. The Tigers’ offense had been shut down by Liam Hendriks for seven innings. Jared Burton, one of Minnesota’s better bullpen performers, entered the game attempting to get the Twins to the ninth with their one run lead. Austin Jackson promptly singled. After Miguel Cabrera hit a scorching line drive that was snagged for an out, Fielder stepped to the plate with the game on the line.
After a steep cut, the ball left the bat powerfully. It picked up just enough steam to deflect out of Target Field at the last minute, putting the Tigers ahead for good. With the late September magic, Detroit all but guaranteed they’d be winning the Central Division for the second year in a row, a feat the franchise has never yet achieved. It was perhaps the biggest pennant race hit the Tigers have enjoyed in years.
Best of all, Fielder came completely unglued in the process. He screamed as he rounded the bases with a mighty fist pump. Entering the dugout, he powerfully slapped hands with anyone in his way. It looked as if he was angry. It was raw emotion we haven’t seen out of Fielder all season at the perfect time.
It was the best possible way for the Tigers to end the week, as well. In September pennant races past, there hasn’t been a moment like that. The Tigers at times have looked like a team just content to hang on. One look into Fielder’s eyes showed a team that wasn’t satisfied in 2012, and determined to finally take care of business in a close race.
Coming into this season, many assumed Fielder was just accepting the biggest paycheck when coming to the Tigers. With his always calm demeanor, sometimes, fans could get the impression that the slugger didn’t care about the game’s outcome. Clearly that’s not the case, and now, it’s obvious to everyone. It was the moment when Fielder finally looked completely comfortable in his new surroundings.
The best baseball players come alive in October. With his mighty blast, Fielder showed that he and his teammates are not satisfied with being average. Quietly, the Tigers are riding some hot play and bagging clutch wins. After three more games, they’ll get to test the notion that teams catching fire at the right time often fare best in baseball’s playoffs.
In what is hopefully our final regular season Facebook feedback of the week, we pay tribute to Fernando Rodney, who helped put a midweek nail in the White Sox’ coffin for his old club, easing frustration of his old fans.
Jennifer Varana: Thank you Fernando, too bad you couldn’t do something like that when you were a Tiger.
Isn’t it shocking what Rodney has accomplished this season? It’s enough to make plenty of Tigers’ fans frustrated, especially considering the up and down times Jose Valverde has enjoyed in 2012. Though he’s gone, at least Rodney was useful to Detroit this week in some form.