With offense at a premium a day after an unmatched explosion, the Detroit Tigers scratched across just enough to beat an ace while providing their star pitcher with plenty, leading in a 4-1 win and a sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Despite getting a triple from Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers failed to score when he was picked off third on a quick ground ball. Detroit then took the lead in the bottom of the inning on a triple by Austin Jackson and a single by Ian Kinsler. After a wild pitch, Don Kelly scored Kinsler to make it 2-0.
Max Scherzer pitched around a bit of trouble in the third, getting a tidy double play to finish off the inning. Zack Greinke, meanwhile, also settled in, keeping Detroit off the board for two more innings. They struck in the fourth courtesy of a Nick Castellanos single and led 3-0. Miguel Rojas answered back with his first career home run, getting the Dodgers on the board.
Both Scherzer and Greinke continued to battle, tossing dueling scoreless innings through the seventh while piling up strikeouts. Scherzer finished with seven punch outs, while Greinke ended with eight. Joba Chamberlain pitched the eighth, and got the Dodgers 1-2-3, including a whiff of Puig.
Brandon League didn't fare as well in the bottom of the inning, surrendering an insurance run to Detroit thanks to a double from Jackson and a sacrifice fly from Torii Hunter which made it 4-1. Joe Nathan finished things off with a spotless ninth inning, getting the final two batters to strike out.
Top Tiger: Don Kelly. Though he's now 5-11 lifetime off Greinke, nobody could have pictured Kelly playing a starring role in the game, including knocking in an RBI and scoring a run. In the ultimate show of respect, the Dodgers walked Kelly in the bottom of the eighth with a runner on second to get to Castellanos. "Baseball's that type of game where even without your best player you can go out there and win," Ausmus said afterwards. "Gotta give some credit to Don Kelly for getting a couple hits, driving in a run." Aye-aye, skipper.
Bungling Bengal: None. Detroit swept the series and got a complete day of hitting and pitching from both starter and bullpen. They also got some clutch hitting from Don Kelly. All in all, a nice end to the first half at Comerica Park.
The Turning Point: Yasiel Puig gets picked off third by Eugenio Suarez early. Mentally, the Tigers could have been wilted again had they given up runs early especially considering the competition they had to face on the mound, but Suarez made a heads-up play "I think it was a big play when they had a runner on third one out, ground ball to short kind of stymies them in the first inning," Ausmus said. "I don't want to say it changed the complexion of the game, but it certainly was a partial difference in the game."
Play Of The Game: Rajai Davis's sliding catch in the first. Things looked to be off to a less than quality start again for Detroit, but Suarez picked Puig off third base and then, Davis made an excellent sliding catch to keep the Dodgers off the bases and off the board. After that point, the Tigers went on to get runs off off Greinke. In addition to clubbing some clutch hits and showing power, Davis has done a nice job playing quality defense in left field.
Stat Of The Game: 9, the number of wins the Tigers collected in games when Miguel Cabrera sat out in 2013. All told, Detroit was 9-5 in 14 of those affairs, scoring 4.64 runs a game. Much like 2013, those facts held true today, with Detroit scoring four runs and winning a close game.
Quote To Note: "We're going to continue to put him there as long as he keeps doing what he's doing" —Brad Ausmus. When pressed about Austin Jackson, who had another solid 2-4 day at the leadoff spot and made things happen, the manager said he wasn't changing much. "He doesn't look overmatched. He's taking good swings even when he's fouling balls off. Pitches aren't beating him." All are good signs for Jackson as it relates to both himself turning things around and remaining in the leadoff spot.
What's Next: The Tigers finish out the first half with a four game weekend road set against the Kansas City Royals. Drew Smyly (4-8) gets the ball against Jeremy Guthrie (5-7). The game starts at 8:10 p.m. EST.
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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