After the pomp and circumstance of welcoming back a winner subsided, the matter of a baseball game had to be decided. With the 1984 version of the Detroit Tigers fresh in their minds, the 2014 edition of the team turned a walk off trick, beating the Oakland Athletics 5-4 with some late magic.
The offense would be much deferred. Throughout the first six innings, the fireworks were kept to a minimum by a combination of solid defense and good pitching. Both Oakland and Detroit put runners on consistently early on, but got nobody home until the sixth.
Oakland wasn't getting much done off of Anibal Sanchez, but they put the first two runners on in the sixth and struck on a single by Jed Lowrie to take a 1-0 lead. Sanchez escaped further trouble, however, and Detroit tied the game in the bottom of the sixth after a Miguel Cabrera moon shot.
Sanchez stayed in, hanging tough and eventually getting betrayed by his defense. When Eugenio Suarez airmailed Cabrera at first in the seventh, the lead run was plated. The inning went from bad to worse after the bases became loaded. Lowrie looked to be the hero again, singling home two more runs to make it 4-1.
Luke Gregerson, though wobbly in the eighth with a pair of walks, sidestepped damage thanks to a double play ball. Trouble found the previously electric Sean Doolittle quickly, however. Two singles and a rare walk of Austin Jackson later, the bases were loaded. Rajai Davis stepped to the plate, and bombed a pitch to left field that easily cleared the wall.
Stunningly, the Tigers had rallied for only the fourth walk off victory at Comerica Park this season against a team with a fantastic bullpen. Old magic, indeed.
Top Tiger: Rajai Davis. Leading off due to his excellent numbers against Scott Kazmir, Davis had a rough night going until the ninth inning. However, with the game on the line, he blasted off, sending Detroit into party mode. Few expected Davis to have a flair for the dramatic long ball, but he added nicely to his resume with another big home run.
Bungling Bengal: Eugenio Suarez. Not only did Suarez struggle at the plate with a pair of strikeouts, but he made a notable mistake late in the game, failing to plant his feet and overthrowing Cabrera at first base, leading to the floodgates opening for Oakland. With all the good he's done, Suarez is entitled to a few rough games, but this one nearly cost his team dearly. It's also worth mentioning how Suarez also made a few fine plays, showcasing his talent.
The Turning Point: Austin Jackson's walk loads the bases in the ninth. As Brad Ausmus pointed out after the game, Jackson's at bat was a key moment in the entire inning. Doolittle had only allowed one walk previously during the season, but that disappeared in a mistake-filled inning when Jackson's patience paid off. Oakland walks more than Detroit, but in the key moment, the Tigers got the walk they needed to win.
Play Of The Game: Austin Jackson's dive prevents a hit. The center fielder that is most often criticized for never diving finally made a meaningful dive on Monday, and turned up with the ball. It was a fantastic play for Jackson, which may have even surprised him a bit, considering the wide smile he was wearing after making the beautiful play.
Stat Of The Game: 10, the number of years between Detroit's walk off grand slams. The others? June 21, 1994 from Lou Whitaker and June 27, 2004 from Carlos Pena. When accounting for history, everyone should have seen this moment coming. It seems every 10 years in late June, the Tigers have some type of magic up their sleeves with the sacks packed in the bottom of the ninth.
Quote To Note: "He just did it on his own" –Brad Ausmus, talking about the defensive slide of Austin Jackson that pleased the crowd and teammates alike. As Ausmus noted, some players enjoy sliding and have it in their repertoire and others do not. When Jackson chooses to use the power like tonight, it seems to be an impressive weapon.
What's Next: The Tigers will look to win the three game set tomorrow evening, sending Rick Porcello (10-4) to the hill against Brad Mills (1-0) at 7:08 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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