Phew!

Courtesy: Sportsline.com

The Tigers managed to take one game of the four game set with the New York Yankees and they did it in style. Storming back from a 5-0 deficit, they completed the comeback this time around with a 7-6 victory. Today, the team was much better at converting opportunities with runners on than they had been in the previous three games. At times, namely when Craig Monroe was up to bat, they left something to be desired in terms of driving in runs, but even his six men left on base paled in comparison to Yankees fill-in rightfielder Terrence Long‘s nine left on.

Chien-Ming Wang breezed through three innings facing just nine hitters thanks to a nixed stolen base attempt and a double play. He came unraveled in fourth inning allowing three straight hits to the top of the lineup to load the bases. A walk to Magglio Ordonez gave the Tigers their first run of game. A pair of RBI-singles by Carlos Guillen and Omar Infante drew the Tigers to within two runs. Finally the team converted an optimum scoring chance for some runs. It was something that plagued the team all series long:

May 30th, 1st inning vs. Aaron Small:
-Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Ball, Strike looking, Granderson singled to right.
-Pickoff attempt, Ball, Strike looking, Polanco singled to right, Granderson to second.
-Rodriguez reached on bunt single to pitcher, Granderson to third, Polanco to second.
-Ball, Foul, Foul, Ordonez fouled out to first.
-Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul, Guillen lined out to shortstop.
-Strike looking, Ball, Foul, Shelton struck out swinging.
–End of Inning (0 Runs, 3 Hits, 0 Errors)

May 30th, 8th inning vs. Kyle Farnsworth & Scott Proctor:
-Ball, Ball, Ball, Shelton walked.
-Monroe singled to left center, Shelton to second
-Santiago running for Shelton
-Foul, Ball, Ball, Ball, Foul, Foul, Thames walked, Santiago to third, Monroe to second.
-Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Inge reached on fielder’s choice to shortstop, Santiago scored, Monroe to third, Thames out at second.
-Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul, Granderson struck out looking.
-Strike looking, Foul, Polanco struck out swinging.
–End of Inning (1 Run, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)

May 31st, 6th inning vs. Mike Mussina:
-Inge reached on bunt single to first.
-Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Ball, Granderson singled to left center, Inge to second.
-Polanco grounded into fielder’s choice to first, Inge out at third, Granderson to second.
-Strike looking, Rodriguez grounded into double play shortstop to first, Polanco out at second.
–End of Inning (0 Runs, 2 Hits, 0 Errors)

Three key innings that could’ve turned the series in favor of the Tigers. Tonight, after getting within two at 5-3, rookie Justin Verlander labored through the fifth inning, including a leadoff home run to Jason Giambi (14), in what would be his last of the evening. The bloodspots on his right pant leg seemed to suggest he was battling a blister. Hopefully it doesn’t become a recurring problem for him.

The teams remained scoreless until the ninth when the Tigers took advantage of Mariano Rivera‘s unavailability and brutalized former teammate Kyle Farnsworth. Marcus Thames, poster boy for BbP, followed a Granderson lineout with a walk. It was his third time on base as he raised his batting line to .307/.413/.648. Then Rodriguez, Ordonez, & Guillen knocked three straight singles that scored Thames then Pudge giving the Tigers the series saver.

Lost in the shuffle of going 1-3 against the Yankees is the fact that the Chicago White Sox posted the exact same record in four games against the Cleveland Indians and the Tigers still hold the league’s best record entering their tilt with the Boston Red Sox. As we enter the third month of the season, the success of the Tigers is no longer new and fresh. We have entered the period where the pessimists are waiting for the other shoe to drop or trying uncover the flaws of the team.

They aren’t perfect and despite what their record says, I do not honestly believe they are the best team in baseball. That said, I do not believe they are a fluke and feel confident in saying they are one of the best teams in baseball. The team’s detractors can’t just take a particular series and continually point at it saying “see, see, they aren’t that good after all!!!” Rough patches with three or four game skids happen during the course of the season, it’s inevitable as evidenced by the reiging champions over the course of the same period. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated realizes that the Tigers are still very much contenders.

The Tigers have their work cut out for them if they want back-to-back wins as Curt Schilling (8-2, 3.92 ERA, 7.2 K:BB) takes the hill for Boston against Kenny Rogers (7-3, 3.76 ERA, 1.8 K:BB) at 6:05 PM Central. An hour later, the Detroit Pistons once again look to extend their season in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. Head over to one of my newest sites to check daily, Detroit Bad Boys, for extended coverage.

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