Tigers Topple Evil Empire, A's Await

On a day when the state of Michigan is typically dedicated to football, Jeremy Bonderman stole the show, sending the $200 million lineup home for good, while Comerica Park was rocking with the champagne flowing.

The Tigers came into the '06 playoffs on a sour note, putting up one of the worst records in baseball over the final 50 games, including losing 5 straight, and losing the division lead that they had held since May. No one felt worse about that than Jeremy Bonderman, who lost a six-run lead in the season finale against Kansas City, the game that broke the camel's back, and the game that would have given the Tigers the game clincher. On Saturday, Bonderman was determined to not let that happen again. "He was a pitcher's dream as far as doing what he was trying to do," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Bonderman's spectacular outing. "He was a perfect example of keeping hitters off-balance." Bonderman was perfect through the first five innings, until a Robinson Cano single broke up his attempt at a perfect game. Bonderman wasn't worried about getting a perfect game, or a no-hitter, or a complete game shutout. He was worried about one thing; winning. And he did. In reality, his numbers didn't even do his performance justice, even though they were spectacular. Bonderman was charged with two earned runs on five hits over 8 1/3 innings, before handing the ball over to Jamie Walker to get the final two outs, leaving to a standing ovation with the fans awaiting the victory that would push the club into the ALCS. The Tiger offense of course deserves credit too; jumping on Yankee starter Jaret Wright early, giving Bonderman an early cushion that forced the Yankees into abandoning any game plan they had, pulling Wright early in a desperation move before the game got out of hand. But the Tigers weren't going to let up, not with the look in Bonderman's eye – he wasn't going to lose this game, and the Yankee bullpen, which everyone knew would be their weakness, couldn't stop the bleeding. And then the champagne was flowing. It was flowing everywhere. In the clubhouse, in the hallways, on the field, in the stands. It was a celebration that Comerica Park has never seen, and a celebration Tiger fans haven't had in 20 years. Saturday night was a time to enjoy the victory, but on Sunday, the focus will shift to Oakland, who handily swept the Minnesota Twins, and have been playing some of their best baseball over the past few months. And unlike the Yankees, the Athletics don't have the same glaring weaknesses. Their rotation is strong, their bullpen has been solid, and while not spectacular, their offense did enough to beat Johan Santana in game one, and then held on with Minnesota not having another featured starter to throw out there. Saturday night was a celebration, but come Sunday, it's time to start preparing. Because as exciting as Saturday night was, the Tigers aren't done yet.

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