Less than 12 hours after the end of last night’s disappointing loss, the Cardinals took on the Tigers in a rubber game at Comerica Park.
Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland sent Nate Robertson to the mound, a left-hander. The Cardinals’ manager, Tony La Russa, stacked the right-handed swingers against him, including, fresh off the DL, Albert Pujols, who singled in his first at-bat.
The only pure left-side swingers were Rick Ankiel and Adam Kennedy, and Kennedy, due to Pujols as DH. With the infield, from third to first, Aaron Miles, Bredan Ryan, Kennedy, and Troy Glaus, you might, instead of saying the Cards played a utility infielder, say they played a utility infield, every player having played multiple infield positions already this season.
A pitcher’s duel ensued for five innings before La Russa brought in Ron Villone for the sixth, an inning that saw the Tigers’ Placido Polanco ejected from the game for arguing his strikeout with the home plate umpire. Still, the Tigers managed to fill the bases. With one out, Villone struck out Miguel Cabrera, then permitted the first run of the game when he walked Clete Thomas.
Walking batters in relief has been the bane of bullpen, and understandably, La Russa yanked Villone. Jason Isringhausen got the call, getting out of the inning with one pitch, getting Gary Sheffield to pop out to Ryan.
Down 1-0, Ryan led off the seventh, Robertson still on the hill. Ryan singled. Barton laid down a semi-sacrifice bunt, but illegally ran inside the foul line, causing the received throw to be dropped. Barton was called out for the interference, and worse, Ryan was ordered sent back to first base by the umpires, as no gain could be made from an illegal play. Miles then hit a double into the right field corner. Ryan wouldn’t have scored on the play, but a Ryan Raburn throw overshot everyone and landed in the Tigers’ dugout. Ryan scored on the play, and Miles was awarded third base.
At that point, Leyland brought in Fernando Rodney. An intentional walk was issued to Albert Pujols, who had already tallied three hits on the day, and Rodney dispatched Glaus and Ludwick to end the Cardinals’ rally, leaving two ducks on the pond.
With the score now tied at 1-each, Isringhausen remained in the game, but had a bit of a hitch during warm-ups, favoring his right leg. He managed to strick out Mike Hollimon, then got Dane Sardinha to pop out to Kennedy. Granderson hit an infield chopper that was too deep for Ryan to do anything with behind second base, wisely putting the ball in his pocket. The next big question was whether the speedy Granderson had the ability to steal, especially off of Isringhausen, who is know for being slow to the plate. Now, for the improbable. Granderson got a great jump on a slow delivery to home, and to top it off, the pitch was one of Isringhausen’s downward sweeping curveballs, if you can call it that. In any event, Izzy’s curve was slow. Jason LaRue threw a mildly high strike to second base, and Granderson was out on a play that wasn’t all that close, considering the aforementioned attributes of the play.
The eighth went quietly, and both teams found themselves in the same situation as the early morning finish, all knotted up in the ninth.
Leyland stuck with what worked last night, bringing in the Tigers’ closer, Todd Jones. Skip Schumaker got a one-out pinch-hit single to left, then advanced when Aaron Miles hit a flare, almost misreading the hit so badly that he might’ve been forced out at second base, had the Tigers defense noticed Schumaker heading back toward first base, acting as if he was sure the Miles’ fly would be caught. Pujols got his shot, hitting a hard ground ball that found the hole on the left side, Schumaker scrambling home ahead of the throw. The one run was all the Cardinals could muster, but it put them up 2-1 with the Tigers down to three outs.
Cards’ closer Ryan Franklin was called upon to hold the Tigers in their last at-bats. Sheffield had other ideas, hanging tough on any kind of pitch and location Franklin had to offer, eventually cranking one out in field left. The Cardinals continued to scrap for Franklin in the field, executing a good cut-off relay on a Holliman double to right field, Ludwick missing the first cut-off man, but hitting the back-up, Ryan, who wheeled and fired a strike on the third base bag, Miles gloving and tagging Holliman trying to stretch his double into a triple.
Booby Seay came on to pitch the tenth for the Tigers, holding the Cardinals.
La Russa called on 25-year-old Mike Parisi, who had been a starter for years, then had a few good appearances in relief, and then, botched a few major league starts. Granderson led off with a single to right, advancing to second on a pefectly executed sacrifice bunt by Raburn. La Russa then had Carlos Guillen intentionally walked to set up the double play, his run meaningless at this juncture. Ordonez had his chance to play hero, but not before pitching coach Dave Duncan would visit the young Cardinals hurler. Ordonez accomplished a sacrifice fly to Ludwick in right field, Granderson advancing to third on the tag-up. La Russa then had Cabrera intentionally walked, loading up the bases for an easy force out at any base, but piling the pressure on Parisi to face Thomas with the bases loaded. Given the Cardinals’ relievers’ difficulties with walking hitters, even to the point of walking them in for runs, the move was gutsy. Parisi worked the count full, then threw a couple off the plate to walk in the winning run, another tough loss for the Cardinals, the relief corps getting eaten alive on walks, and of the type that hurts the most–with the bases loaded.
The Cardinals lost the series in Detroit, something they don’t often do, and on a day where Albert Pujols returned to gather four hits and a walk, they couldn’t prevent handing out free runs to the Tigers, losing 3-2 in ten innings.
The way the Cards lost can be distributed amongst the team, but it is likely the media will throw this on the shoulders of Mike Parisi, who, while having his troubles, didn’t pitch any worse an inning than some of the other relievers. Like McClellan last night, however, Parisi will take away a tough loss that hopefully will spur him on toward better performances in the future.
Parisi took the loss to go 0-4 while Seay got the win, improving to 1-1.
To add insult to injury, this was the third walk-off walk Parisi had endured, and for Thomas, the walk-off walk in the tenth was his second RBI on the day by this method.
After a lengthy rain delay, the Tigers and Cardinals took the field at Comerica Park, playing out a 5-5 tie from the fifth inning.
Rick Ankiel had just homered to tie the game. Duncan had been on first base with two outs when the game had been delayed by rain for two hours and fifteen minutes.
Upon the game’s restart, Zach Miner took over for starter Armando Galarraga, who got the Tigers out of the inning.
After the long delay, Cardinals’ staring pitcher Kyle Lohse couldn’t continue. Chris Perez took over on the hill, keeping the Tigers from a quick strike.
In the top of the sixth, Miner hit Adam Kennedy with a pitch, but any potential scoring opportunity was snuffed when Nick Stavinoha grounded in a double play.
Perez remained on the mound, holding the Tigers again, only Carlos Guillen reaching on a double and then left on the bases.
In the Cardinal seventh, Schumaker lead off with a walk, but Aaron Miles grounded into a double play. With two outs, Rick Ankiel drew a walk. Troy Glaus followed him with a single to left, and Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland brought in fireballer Joel Zumaya. The pressure mounted for the reliever when he walked Chris Duncan, loading the bases for Yadier Molina. The tension really thickened in Comerica Park, filling in the empty seats where the bulk of the crowd had bailed after the long rain delay. The count went full to Molina, but Zumaya’s next pitch was nowhere close to the strike zone, making it easy for Molina to take the RBI walk, the Cardinals going up 6-5. But bases were still full, however, with Kennedy at the plate. Zumaya got ahead of the recently hot-hitting Kennedy, who fouled off several offerings before flying out to Curtis Granderson in center field.
Jason Isringhausen relieved Perez, and got himself in a jam when Miguel Cabrera singled to start off the Tiger seventh. Isringhausen then walked Clete Thomas, and Gary Sheffield singled. Just like that, the bases were full of Tigers with no outs. The Cardinals were content to trade some outs for the tying run, Edgar Renteria grounding to Brendan Ryan at short, over to Miles covering second, the pivot to Kennedy for a double play, Cabrera scoring, Thomas advancing to third. Troy Glaus scooped an Ivan Rodriguez ground ball and fired corner to corner to end the inning.
Hitting with the game tied, Nick Stavinoha ground out. Ryan drew a walk, however, and with Skip Schumaker at the plate, advanced on a Zumaya wild pitch. The crafty reliever mixed the rest of his pitches to Schumaker, getting him to swing at strike three on a breaking ball in the dirt. Miles would get a shot at him, shooting a single near the foul line in left field. Ryan scored easily on the RBI basehit, the Cards going up by one yet again, now at 7-6. Leyland took a walk to the mound, getting the ball from Zumaya and handing it off to reliever Bobby Seay. Ankiel face Seay first, who has trouble with left-handed hitters. Seay had not trouble with Ankiel, however, striking him out while tending to Miles leading off first base.
Now with Schumaker in left field, Chris Duncan at first base, and Ryan Ludwick in right field, Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa went to left-handed reliever Randy Flores. Granderson had his way, however, singling to center, and La Russa pulled Flores for Kyle McClellan, bringing in the right-handed rookie to face Placido Palonco. The Tigers put on the sacrifice bunt, but Molina pounced on the ball, gunning the throw to Ryan covering second base to get the lead runner. Polanco then took second on a wild pitch by McClellan, making up for his bunting miscue. Carlos Guillen advanced Polanco to third base with a ground to the right side. Magglio Ordonez supplied the RBI this tie, singling home Polanco, and the tying the game at 7-apiece.
Tigers’ reliever Tom Jones came on to shut down the Cardinals one-two-three, giving his team a shot at a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.
Clete Thomas came to the plate at a quarter to one in the morning, eastern time in Detroit. Still on the hill, McClellan fell behind him 3-0, fighting back to a full count before Thomas rocketed a high fast ball to the left field fence. On second base and with no one out, Thomas would read whatever came off the bat of teammate Gary Sheffield. McClellan fell behind Sheffield in the count, then worked another full count, this time Sheffield ripping a walk off single into center field, scoring Thomas for the 8-7 victory.
The line on Detroit starter Armado Galarraga (7-2. 3.03) is that he is very tough on right-handed hitters. So Cards’ manager, Tony La Russa, scribbles a lineup full of lefty-swingers. TLR’s move paid dividends in the first inning, leadoff batter Skip Schumaker taking Galarraga deep, and a batter later, Rick Ankiel dittoed. Ankiel jabbed Schumaker a bit in the dugout, but then it was back to work, playing defense behind Cardinals’ starter, Kyle Lohse (9-2, 3.63), who got to take his first turn on the hill up 2-0.
Both Lohse and Galarrage have legimate shots, respectively, at making this year’s All-Star team.
Lohse has been giving the Cardinals some quantity to go along with his quality so far this year, pitching to at least the sixth inning and beyond in many of his starts. The Tigers would make formidable foes, however, as they had faced Lohse several times when he pitched for the Minnesota Twins. After losing 8-4 last night, and in Comerica Park, the Tigers were looking to even things up in the three-game series, and quickly.
The Tigers threatened in the first, but Placido Palanco got caught in a rundown between third base and home when Cardinals’ third baseman Troy Glaus fielded a ground ball and fired back to Yadier Molina, who properly ran Palanco back toward third base. Although Glaus didn’t give a visual signal (that was apparent, anyway), Molina fed him the ball at the right time, Palanco a dead duck. That was enough to kill off any potential rally.
Gary Sheffield, just off Detroit’s DL, hit the ball well last night, including a rocketed home run to left field. In the second, he took Lohse into the left-center field alley, cruising into second base with a standup double with one out and the Tigers threatening for the second time in as many innings. And they got some help from Adam Kennedy, who, in his second start playing first base, ranged way too far toward second base on a ground ball, so far that even Lohse couldn’t believe it from the mound, getting a late start to cover, Kennedy throwing the ball away, behind Lohse. Sheffield came around, jogging home on the mistake, cut the Cards’ lead to one at 2-1. The mistake continued to pay dividends for the Tigers, the batter on the play, Edgar Renteria, moving up to second on a Ivan Rodriguez single to center, then scoring on a Curtis Granderson single to center. Rodriguez learned why base runners hold up on balls hit to Ankiel in center field tonight, the strong-armed outfielder gunning him down at third base. The Renteria score, however, knotted up the game at 2-apiece.
It was the Cardinals’ turn to threaten in the third, Schumaker singling to center. But the single wasn’t the “found opportunity.” It was when Aaron Miles hit a slicing fly ball to left fielder, Marcus Thames, the the Cardinals had a golden opportunity. Thames overran the fly, and by the time he hustled it up, Shumaker was on third and Miles was heading into second. Ankiel hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Schumaker for the go-ahead run, 3-2.
The Tigers squandered an possible scoring opportunity in their half of the third, Carlos Guillen singling to start off the inning, then advancing to third base when Miguel Cabrera doubled to left field. Thames, however, struck out looking, then rushed the home plate umpire with his difference of opinion, enough to get tossed within a few seconds, Molina peeking back for a moment, then getting focused on his pitcher Lohse, who would have to face Sheffield with two men on. Sheffield grounded out, ending the Tiger’s hopes in the frame.
The Cards didn’t waste the chance that came up for them in their next turn, Molina singling, Kennedy doubling, and suddenly, Redbirds runners on second and third with no out. When rookie Nick Stavihoha (DH) hit a ground ball down third base way, Guillen bobbled the exchange, never getting a chance at Molina lumbering down the line for home plate. Molina’s run put the Cards up by two at 4-2.
A two-out rally in the bottom of fourth gave the Comerica Park crowd something to cheer about. After Curtis Granderson walked and Polanco singled, Lohse got a pitch up, Carlos Guillen pounding the ball over the right field wall. The three-run blast put the Tigers up 5-4.
Galarraga was able to pitch with a lead for the first time in the game, but that lasted only one out before Ankiel took him deep for the second time, tying the game at 5-all. Glaus singled. Chris Duncan then hit into what would have been a double play, but when Tigers’ shortstop Renteria stepped on second base himself and threw to first, the ball short-hopped Cabrera, who couldn’t pick the low throw.
With two outs and Duncan on first base, the game was delayed due to rain.
With Kenny Rogers on the hill for Detroit and Braden Looper going for St. Louis, there was a high likelihood of one run meaning a lot. A whole lot more then the days of enhanced vitamins and juiced up baseballs, anyway. All semi-kidding aside, it was the nature of these two hurlers that suggested the game might be decided by a close margin.
That being said, Tony La Russa made the most of Brian Barton’s leadoff double (he got help when Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson lost sight of the fly), deploying Aaron Miles in a small-ball tactic, bunting, almost beating out the attempt, but Barton advancing to third base all the same. Problem was, Tigers’ third baseman, Carlos Guillen, who scooped a ground ball near the line, slapping down a tag on Barton sliding back toward third, putting him out and firing to first baseman, Miguel Cabrera to complete the inning-ending double play.
The Tigers went down one-two-three in the bottom of the first frame.
To set the quicker tone, the Cards put up only three batters in the top of the second, Rick Ankiel walking, but then getting picked by Rogers, who is known for having one of the (if not the) best moves to first base.
Magglio Ordonez singled to start off the Tiger second, but Looper got Cabrera to ground to shortstop Brendan Ryan, who sent the ball to second baseman Miles, then over to first baseman Adam Kennedy (his first start ever at first base) for the double play. Marcus Thames fouled out to Kennedy to end the inning.
The biggest opportunity of the young game came in the Cardinal third, rookie Nick Stavinoha singling to start the inning. After a Kennedy strikeout, Ryan singled to right, Stavinoha hustling to third base. With men on the corners, Barton grounded to shortstop Edgar Renteria, Stavinoha scoring and Ryan safe at second when Renteria erred fielding the ball. Miles then hit a swinging bunt to Rogers on the mound, almost beating this one out like his actual bunt in the first inning. Rogers threw home out on a close play, Ryan advancing to third and Barton moving up to second. They would die on the base paths, however, when Ryan Ludwick flew out to Thames.
The bottom of the third found not Tigers rally, but they did score the tying run when Ivan Rodriguez hit a bomb over the distant Comerica Park center field fence.
After a scoreless Cardinals fourth, Cabrera hit a long fly over the outstretched arm of right fielder Ludwick. The ball hit inches short of the yellow line, but the umpire ruled it a home run. La Russa offered an argument, but there was no change in the call. The solo homer put the Tigers up 2-1.
The fifth would end with Rogers striking out Ankiel with the bases loaded, but before a Redbird reached, Barton jacked one over the left field fence, tying the game at 2-2.
Looper sailed through the fifth, and the Cardinals’ offense followed with a rally that would see Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland pulling Rogers. Molina started the sixth off with a double, advancing to third base by Stavinoha when he grounded to the right side. Kennedy singled past a pulled-in infield, Molina scoring the go-ahead run. Ryan then singled, hustling to second base when he saw teammate Kennedy taking third on a base running challenge to outfielder Granderson. That is when Leyland called for reliever Freddy Dolsi. Pinch-hitting for Barton, Skip Schumaker hit a 2-RBI single, Kennedy and Ryan scoring, putting the Cards up 5-2.
The Tigers put up a fight in the bottom half of the sixth, working a potential rally together that would find Placido Polanco and Ordonez on base with two outs and Cabrera representing the tying run at the plate. Cabrera grounded out to kill the inning for Detroit.
Looking to tack on runs, Troy Glaus lead off the seventh, but flew out to Ordonez in right field. Ankiel then dropped a flare in front of Ordonez for a single. Yadier Molina singled sharply to right, Ordonez busy, and easily holding up Ankiel at second base with a throw in from shallow right. Stavinoha secured his first major league RBI with a basehit to left field, Ankiel speeding home from second base, Molina holding up at second base. Leyland brought in Casey Fossum to relieve Dolsi. Fossum promply struck out Kennedy for the second out. Ryan then tacked on all right, doubling off the left field fence, bringing home Molina and Stavihoha, putting the Cardinals way out in front, 8-2. The inning ended with Miles grouding out, but the Cardinals had successfully bum-rushed the tough Tigers’ bullpen, lighting them up for three more runs in the frame.
Gary Sheffield cranked a two-run homer to bring the Tigers back within four at 8-4, and that was it was Looper. La Russa brought in Russ Springer, the Cardinals’ best-performing middle reliever. Springer slowed the Tigers’ momentum, joining the defense to shut down the rest of the inning.
Fossum shut down the Cardinals in the eighth, and La Russa went to reliever Kyle McClellan, his role obvious: throw strikes, don’t get cute on the corners, make the Tigers hit their way on. Palanco did just that, singling to right field, but no free passes was the correct attitude for rookie pitcher McClellan, especially up four runs late in the game. For the defense, a double play would do nicely, but in this late-inning situation versus a team that can “come and get you” at any time, the sure out would be of paramount importance. Yet a double play fell right in the Redbirds’ lap, Ordonez grounding into a tailor-made 6-4-3 to end their chances in the eighth.
Fernando Rodney would get work out of the Tigers’ pen in the ninth, setting down the Cardinals in order.
The Tigers would take their last chance at-bats against the Cardinals’ closer, Ryan Franklin. After one ground out by a non-hustling Cabrera, Franklin sinned, walking a batter (Thames). Sheffield, who had hit a two-run homer his last at bat, flew out to Schumaker in left field. The signs of troubled came when Renteria hit a squibber up the first base line, about twenty feet, a ball Franklin and Molina couldn’t decide upon which of them would make the play. This put base runners on first and second for Rodriguez, who also had homered earlier. Rodriguez hit a hard ground ball toward the hole on the right side, but Kennedy made an excellent grab, tossing to Franklin covering first to end the game.
Final score: Cardinals 8, Tigers 4.
Looper secured the win, extending his record to 9-5, while Rogers took the loss.