On Tuesday morning of August 19, the Detroit Tigers were the hottest topic in baseball for all the wrong reasons.
The team that had just acquired the best pitcher available at the trade deadline, David Price. Before the move,the Tigers were already pegged as one of the favorites to win it all, but were reeling worse than almost any team in baseball.
Losers of nine of their previous 14 games, Detroit looked to stop the bleeding and attempt to start gaining ground on the division-leading Kansas City Royals, who at the time, were winners of 12 of their last 14 games during the same span.
If that was not enough, Detroit was traveling to Tampa Bay, the very team from which they acquired the aforementioned 2012 Cy Young award winner, Price.
However, to open the series it was the 2013 winner of that illustrious trophy, Max Scherzer, who Detroit would turn to. Walking on the field, the Tigers saw themselves back two games, their worst standing of the entire season.
Scherzer gave up four runs to the first 11 batters of the game and the Tigers found themselves in a hole early. After a few more scoreless innings, the new age of baseball took over on a big call that went Detroit’s way.
With two on and two out, Miguel Cabrera laced a line drive right up the box, but with a great jump center fielder Desmond Jennings made a diving grab to take away a base hit and RBI from the reigning MVP. Or so it appeared.
Upon further review it became evident that the ball landed on the turf just in front of Jennings before bouncing into his glove and the Rays’ lead was cut to 4-3.
The Tigers then took the lead briefly before Tampa Bay was able to tie it up and go to extra innings. In the 11th inning, the Tigers had a rally that consisted of a triple, followed by three consecutive walks, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.
It just goes to show it does not have to be pretty to be effective, as Detroit held on for a much needed 8-6 win.
That being said, it certainly is more aesthetically pleasing when the game is played with more rhythm and flow than watching hitters walk around the bases, and man did Rick Porcello please some aesthetics.
Ricky P. was absolutely dominant from the opening pitch as he had a stretch of retiring 20 consecutive Rays batters. Porcello had more strikeouts than base runners allowed as he left with a complete game shut out, with just three hits, no walks and four strikeouts.
In the seventh inning with a 1-0 lead, the first two Tiger batters had struck out and it appeared as if the inning was almost over. However after three hits and an intentional walk to Cabrera, Victor Martinez came strolling to the plate with the bases juiced and a 2-0 lead.
Martinez blasted his fourth career grand slam for his 24th home run on the season, just one shy of his career high, en route to a 6-0 Tigers victory.
However, these first two games of the series pailed in comparison to the marquee matchup that took place in the final game of the series. At least in terms of fan intrigue.
Price was back on the mound facing his former team for the first time in St. Petersburg, Fla. and was as dominant as he has ever been.
In the first inning Eugenio Suarez overthrew first baseman Martinez leading to an error and the next batter, Brandon Guyer, tripling in Ben Zobrist to put the Rays up 1-0.
Following that, Price went on a roll. Price’s masterpiece was complete when he threw his final pitch, resulting in his ninth strikeout and the 23rd consecutive former teammate he sent back to his former dugout.
However that was not enough.
Yes, a one hit, no walk, no earned run start was not enough to beat his former teammates. Price’s best start of the year, and arguably the most dominant start by any Tiger pitcher, was wasted in a 1-0 loss in the finale.
With all of that being said, this was an incredibly positive series for Detroit:
After the first two innings of the series, Tampa Bay managed just 2 runs in the final 27 innings. Of the 28 total innings, the starters were able to pitch 25 of them, including two complete games in the final two of the series.
Although 21 hits in 29 innings is not impressive, it was more the improvement of the timing of the hitting than anything. Eight of the 14 runs that were scored, came with two outs as well as 9 of the 14 runs coming in the seventh inning or later.
The quality is there, the quantity is what is improving.
The key to the team.
Detroit made one error in the series. The one run that cost them the only game they lost.
As in many of the losses recently, the defense has plagued the Tigers, and it reared its familiar ugly head on Thursday.
While it is not the sweep Detroit hoped for, they are coming off of the best series they played in weeks going into Minnesota. With four games in three days, the Tigers are looking to surge back to the the A.L. Central.
Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.