When the Tigers 7-game home stand began a week ago tonight I was thinking Detroit was only one quality pitcher (Roy Oswalt, anyone?) away from the AL Central title. In fact, I was hoping I’d run into Detroit General Manager Dave Dombrowski in the Press Box (which you sometimes do) just so I could ask him, quietly, under my breath even, “”Oswalt? Roy Oswalt? Don’t he win you the Division?” before he walked away from me. Honestly, that’s how close I thought the Tigers were: One front line starting pitcher away from the division title and the playoffs and all that it entails.
By early Sunday evening, only 6 days later, I figured the Tigs were toast even if they had gotten Oswalt, which, in the interest of accuracy, they had not.
From that Monday night to that Sunday twilight—in less than a week—what had been, arguably, the best 3-4-5 hitting combination in baseball, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Brennan Boesch was history and half the Detroit infield was, too: The Tigers lost both their third baseman Brandon Inge and their second baseman Carlos Guillen to extended stays on the Disabled List in the same time frame.
Too much, too fast. Too many quality players gone for the Tigers to contend any more, I thought.
And on a related and indeed on an even more important note, Detroit had lost 9 of 11 games and was a mere dozen offensive outs away from making that grim toll 10 of 12 in a game in which they trailed Toronto 4-0 heading to the home half of the sixth.
But, the boys fooled me yesterday. Maybe they can fool me some more.
I thought they were a lock to lose that game to Toronto but they came across with a couple in the 6th on, like, the one-millionth big hit of the season by Cabrera and then won it in the 8th when Ryan Rayburn—embarrassed by bouncing into a rally-killing double play in the 5-3 loss the hung on Detroit earlier in the day by the Jays—cleared the loaded bases with a double to give the Tigers a 6-4 lead. They won 6-5.
So it was 3-4 on the home stand and two games out of first when all was said and done and all in all it could have been much, much worse. Of course, you also think about it and you figure the Tigers really could have gone 6-1. They lost the first game of the home stand in 12 when they had the ballgame won in 11 had Johnny Damon scored from second on a single by Boesch. They lost the game Saturday to the Jays by a run when they had chances to win, and on Sunday in the first game Detroit had the bases loaded with one out in a tie game in the eighth and failed not just to score the go-ahead run, but failed to put the ball in play at all.
Tonight, heartbreak in Tampa: Max Scherzer was a strike away from taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning when he allowed a grand slam to former Tiger Matt Joyce that looked like it was fair by a foot, perhaps less. The bases had been loaded on 2 walks and the rarely-called Catcher’s Interference. And that was that. The Tigers offense didn’t muster a hit all night long against Matt Garza and instead of a double no-hitter which really would have been big news, instead we get another no-hitter thrown in the Majors which is getting to be a bit routine in this summer of 2010. Congrats to Garza, the first Ray nee Devil Ray ever to toss a no-hitter. For the Tigers, 6 wins now in their last 25 road games (.240) which is most assuredly not going to get it done. Detroit falls 3 off the pace in the Central race with 3 more to play in Tampa before a trip to Fenway over the weekend.