Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Game of the Day (8/19/14)

Tigers 8, Rays 6 (11). Detroit's Max Scherzer, the defending Cy Young winner, took on Tampa's Chris Archer, whose ERA is about the same as Scherzer's this year. (Archer has fewer innings and an easier park, but they're still not exactly separated by a qualitative ocean.)

Archer was perfect in the first, and the Rays fairly leaped ahead in the bottom of the inning when Ben Zobrist was hit by a pitch, Evan Longoria walked, and James Loney launched a three-run homer. Archer retired the Tigers in order once more in the second, and Tampa added a run on a Vince Belnome double (the 26-year-old's first major league hit), a sacrifice bunt, and a two-out Zobrist single.

The Tigers managed their first baserunners in the third when Alex Avila and Rajai Davis walked, but Ian Kinsler hit into an inning-ending double play. Archer then allowed his first hit when Torii Hunter led off the fourth with a double, but didn't let him move past third. Scherzer, meanwhile, was perfect in both innings, and his teammates finally broke through in the top of the fifth. Nick Castellanos led off the inning with a single. One out later, Andrew Romine singled and Davis reached on a Loney error to load the bases. Kinsler drew a run-scoring walk, Hunter hit into an RBI force at third, and Miguel Cabrera singled in Kinsler with the third run of the inning. Victor Martinez popped up to leave two runners on, but Scherzer worked around a walk in the bottom of the fifth, and the Tigers tied it in the top of the sixth when Avila and Romine walked and Davis singled Avila home. Kirby Yates was then summoned to replace Archer and ended the inning.

Scherzer allowed only a Loney single in the sixth, and Brad Boxberger and Scherzer both threw 1-2-3 sevenths. Joel Peralta took the mound in the top of the eighth, and JD Martinez hit his second pitch for a go-ahead home run, but the Rays tied it against Joba Chamberlain in the bottom of the inning when Longoria walked, Loney and Yunel Escobar singled to load the bases, and Belnome hit a sacrifice fly. Jake McGee allowed a Kinsler double in the ninth, but left him at second, while Al Alburquerque and Blaine Hardy combined on a scoreless bottom of the inning to send the game to extras.

McGee allowed singles to JD Martinez and Romine in the top of the tenth, but left the resultant runners at the corners. Jim Johnson walked Longoria, and after a bunt moved him to second, intentionally walked Belnome before ending the inning. Grant Balfour relieved McGee in the eleventh and promptly gave up a leadoff triple to Kinsler; Hunter walked, Cabrera was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Victor Martinez... walked, forcing in the go-ahead run. Jeff Beliveau was rushed to the mound in Balfour's place and notched a quick out, but then uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch and allowed a sac fly to Bryan Holaday, extending the Tiger lead to 8-5. The Rays got a run back against Joe Nathan in the bottom of the inning when Zobrist singled, Logan Forsythe walked, and Longoria singled Zobrist home, but Sean Rodriguez then struck out to end the game.

Between their own struggles and the shockingly hard-charging Royals, the Tigers really can't afford many losses in starts by Max Scherzer (although, to be fair, they do also have the two Cy Youngs that preceded Scherzer's in their rotation now). Tampa taking a 4-0 lead with a good pitcher on the mound was the nearest thing to an emergency situation you can have in a regular season game - but the Rays stalled out, largely thanks to Scherzer, and the formidable Detroit offense clawed its way back into the game, then produced one last big inning at the right time.

In other words, the Tigers won with good starting pitching and good hitting, just like they usually have in recent years. Which suggests that they are not going to make it easy for KC to take the division title.

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