They Did What They Had To Do

It wasn't a pretty day, and it certainly wasn't a day for the weak willed, but at the end of it, the Tigers did what they had to do; get one win, keep the division lead at two games, and move ever closer to that elusive division crown that has avoided stopping in Detroit for nearly 22 years.

Of course, we'd all like to see the Tigers just sweep the Minnesota Twins in this series, end the division race, and get rested for a rematch of the 2006 ALDS between the Tigers and the New York Yankees.

But knowing this team, we knew that wasn't going to happen.

And so the Tigers did what they absolutely had to do on Tuesday – get one win.

The day game of the doubleheader was a disappointment in just about any sense. The team wasted an outstanding pitching performance by Rick Porcello, who went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run. The offense got plenty of baserunners on early, but couldn't capitalize, and it would become the recurring theme of the game.

The Tigers would finish the game an ugly 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position, and the Twins would end up plating a pair of runs in the tenth to take a 3-1 lead, with the help of a couple wild pitches from Brandon Lyon. Curtis Granderson got one of them back with a solo blast in the bottom of the tenth, but Joe Nathan retired the remainder of the Tigers in order to secure the victory.

And then, uneasiness set in. The reality of the situation became obvious. A team that held a 7.5 game lead in early September could be tied if they falter in the nightcap.

But with their backs against the wall, the Tigers and Justin Verlander wouldn't let that happen.

Verlander wasn't perfect, and was pushed deeper into the game pitch-wise than any game he had pitched in all season, throwing 129 pitches.

Verlander got run support, with a solo shot from Miguel Cabrera, then a pair of two run hits from Magglio Ordonez and Brandon Inge to stake him five runs.

The Twins got two back in the bottom of the sixth, and then two more in the eighth with Verlander struggling a bit to close it out. With the score 5-4, the tying run on second, and Verlander 125 pitches in, manager Jim Leyland strolled out of the dugout for what many expected to be the hook on JV.

But it didn't come. Instead, Leyland delivered a brief message to Verlander, and headed back to the dugout. Verlander retired Michael Cuddyer on a popout to end the threat and exit with the 5-4 lead intact.

What did Leyland say?

"I just told him I don't have anybody better than you," Leyland quipped after the game. Who knows if that's what he said (the comment was said somewhat tongue in cheek), but the truth is, there's no denying the statement – Verlander has been the Tigers' ace all season, and when they needed a win, when they needed an out, Verlander came through.

Of course, no game would be complete without some ninth inning drama.

But first, Granderson came to the rescue again, belting another inning lead off home run, his 30th of the season.

"He's in a groove where he's swinging as good as he has all season," Leyland said after the game about Granderson. His timing couldn't have been better.

The insurance run would end up coming in very handy, as Placido Polanco misplayed a grounder that should have resulted in an error, and then Granderson misjudged a ball in center that landed over his head, scored the Twins' fifth run, and put the tying run in scoring position.

But Fernando Rodney, while never pretty, came through yet again, recording the final out, securing the win, his 36th save, and getting the Tigers another game closer to ending the draught.

But the magic number still sits at 4 . . .


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