David Ortiz was born for the ninth inning. On Sunday night, the Detroit Tigers' bullpen found out why once again. Ortiz crushed a three run home run, taking Detroit out of the lead and helping the Boston Red Sox avert another sweep.
The Red Sox, as per their usual hard grinding ways, got to work early on Anibal Sanchez. Through two innings, Sanchez had thrown 43 pitches. He cracked first in the third thanks to a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
Detroit responded immediately, tying the game after a beautiful piece of hitting by rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who singled home Austin Jackson for the tie score. The Tigers would retake the lead in the very next inning after a pair of hits by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, getting to John Lackey.
Sanchez, who had done plenty of throwing, pitched around trouble but gave up his first home run of the season to Mike Napoli in the sixth, tying the score again. Napoli had also been the last hitter to homer off Sanchez in 2013.
In the bottom half of the inning, Cabrera departed with left hamstring tightness and was declared day to day. Detroit didn't score, and nearly gave up the go ahead run in the top of the seventh after a triple by Brock Holt. Though the bases were loaded, Phil Coke got David Ortiz to fly out ending the threat.
Detroit struck in the bottom of the seventh thanks to their star rookie Suarez, who plated the lead run with another clutch single after a base hit and an error. Coke stayed in and worked his magic again, pitching around an infield single that nearly turned deadly. With 95 mile per-hour heat, Coke blew away Jackie Bradley Jr. and let out a primal scream, leaving the lead intact.
Good feelings would not last, however. The ninth inning turned ugly quick, with a single and a walk on Joba Chamberlain. Then, Ortiz stepped to the plate. This time, he wouldn't be denied, clearing the right field fence with a three-run home run to put the Red Sox ahead 5-3.
Detroit's bats then went quietly into the night against Koji Uehara, going down in order to end the game. It was yet another crushing defeat in a season full of them for the Tigers, who were left to scratch their heads again.
Top Tiger: Eugenio Suarez. If the rookie isn't aware of his major league surroundings, nobody should clue him in just yet. On two clutch at-bats, Suarez collected two RBI's on two singles one night after hitting his first career home run on his first career hit. The intuitiveness of Suarez is impressive early on, and he is perhaps threatening to provide the Tigers with a solid option at shortstop.
Bungling Bengal: Joba Chamberlain. After a streak of spotless innings, everything good had to come to an end. Chamberlain's scoreless streak on Sunday when Ortiz went bombs away in the ninth inning. It was a bad inning for Chamberlain as per his excellent results lately, and he wasn't able to execute his pitches well at all, leading to the loss.
The Turning Point: Joba Chamberlain's walk to Dustin Pedroia in the ninth. After a seeing-eye single found its way up the middle and then, a clutch strikeout, Chamberlain's next batter walked, which set the stage for Ortiz in the ninth inning. Had Chamberlain been able to get Pedroia, it would have changed the complexion of the entire inning for Chamberlain. Instead, he faced Ortiz under enormous circumstances and cracked under pressure.
Play Of The Game: Nick Castellanos' diving stop in the seventh inning. With Brock Holt on third base and the infield in to guard the runner, the margin of error was slim, and on a hot shot by Xander Bogaerts, Castellanos atoned for an earlier error with a fantastic play. For the time, that helped the Tigers keep Boston off the scoreboard in a big moment.
Stat Of The Game: 46, the number of runs the Tigers have allowed in the ninth inning of games this season. The number of innings pitched? 50 2/3. That's nearly as many runs allowed as innings pitched, which is a major problem for a team that thought they put their relief woes behind them after signing Joe Nathan. Detroit isn't getting it done in the late stages, which is the variable preventing them from pulling away in the Central Division most.
What's Next: The Tigers hit the road again for a four game set against the Chicago White Sox. Rick Porcello (8-3) goes against Hector Noesi (1-3) in the series opener on Monday night at 8:10 p.m.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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