Game 1 (3-4, Tigers win)
The Tigers have been playing .500 ball recently so it is awfully nice for the schedule to give them a home series against the D-Rays. Jason Johnson squared off against Casey Fossum and was his usual inconsistent self. He would have great innings where he started every hitter out with a strike, which he’d blow by making a pitch that he shouldn’t. Want some evidence?
He threw seven pitches in the first inning, including a three strike at bat (all looking) to Carl Crawford. In the second, he allowed a leadoff homer to Josh Phelps after getting behind in the count (1-0). The next four batters he faces all see strike one again. The third inning was only ten pitches but the fourth went like the second. Ahead 0-2 with two outs, he allows a single and an RBI double. The fifth and sixth were scoreless but the seventh was a problem. Alex Sanchez hit a single and moved over to third on Johnson’s throwing error when he tried to steal. Johnson gave up the lead again when Toby Hall singled him home. He followed this inning up with a scoreless eighth before being relieved in the ninth by Farnsworth.
It took the Tigers 2.1 innings to get on the board. Marcus “the River” Thames hit a single and scored on Omar Infante’s homerun (1-2). With two out, Brandon Inge got a free pass and advanced to second on Ivan Rodriguez’s single. Carlos Guillen battled Fossum before retiring on a weak pop fly, ending the inning. After two innings of quiet bats, the Tigers perked up in the sixth. Seth McClung, Fossum’s replacement, issued a leadoff walk to Guillen before striking out White. White’s strikeout was followed by Young’s and Monroe’s walk, bringing up Carlos Pena with the bases loaded and a tie game (2-2). McClung dusted off his nasty stuff to strikeout both Pena and Infante to end the inning.
In the ninth, trailing (3-2) the Tigers waited until their last out to get it done. Pena watched four balls to get on, a sacrifice to go to second, and the second out before Rodriguez entered the batter’s box. On a 2-2 count, Pudge tied the game with a single (3-3). Urbina pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless ball before yielding to Franklyn German in the eleventh, who struck out both men he faced. In the bottom half, Inge hit a single and made second on Crawford’s fielding error. Wanting nothing to do with Pudge, he was walked to bring up Ramon Martinez. Martinez laid down a great sacrifice bunt, which gave White runners on second and third. He promptly ended the game with his third hit of the night (3-4).
Game 2 (Final Score: 4-6, Tigers win)
Ledezma got the start and started well, striking out the side in the first. In between the first two strikeouts, he allowed a solo home run to Julio Lugo and an early lead to Tampa Bay (1-0). His opponent, Doug Waechter, helped the Tigers out by misfiring on a pickoff attempt on Logan at first. Logan made it all the way to third on the play and scored when Inge grounded out (1-1). Ledezma added two more strikeouts in the second, better his career best by one, and the Tigers added two more runs. Dmitri Young leadoff with a solo shot and Craig Monroe followed him with a single (1-2). Monroe scored from second on Infante’s double after advancing during Pena’s groundout (1-3). This promising inning was stifled when Jason Smith was thrown out at second stretching for a double leaving Logan with Infante on third and two outs. He did about as much as the Devil Rays did in the top of the third i.e. nothing.
The bottom of the third was different than the top. Waechter again made a play for the other team when he botched Ivan Rodrguez’s one out grounder by dropping the ball at first. It really hurt because Rondell White chased Rodriguez home with a double, extending the lead (1-4). Things got worse when Jorge Cantu botched Young’s ground ball, giving Monroe runners at the corners and only one out. He delivered on an infield single, scoring White from third (1-5). Realizing that playing ten against nine is pretty hard, Pinella replaced Waechter (the best Tigers player today) with Jon Switzer. He managed to strike out two batters to end the inning but not before surrendering another run on Infante’s single (1-6).
Ledezma ran into a patch of trouble in the fourth when he allowed a single and a walk. Toby Hall came up with two out, two on, and hit a three run shot into left field, making things interesting again (4-6). Ledezma only lasted another half and Chris Spurling entered the game and successfully held the lead for two innings. Farnsworth pitched a scoreless eighth and Urbina a scoreless ninth for the win. I’m looking forward to a little bit of spring cleaning with a broom tomorrow.
Game 3 (Final Score: 6-2, Devil Rays win)
Bonderman was given an extra day off (a dead arm according to Trammel) so Maroth takes the mound against the winless Scott Kazmir. After a hitless first, Maroth got down to business in the second. Charles Johnson was looking at three base runners and one out after three singles to Josh Phelps, Aubrey Huff, and Nick Green; Jorge Cantu courteously struck out looking. Maroth walked the first run in before getting Damon Hollins to fly out (1-0). Apparently he liked it so he did it again, walking Carl Crawford (2-0). Mercifully Julio Lugo ended the inning with a groundout, TGiTB.
I can happily report that the Tigers weren’t hitting any of Kazmir’s pitches into space unoccupied by Devil Ray fielders and this went on until the fourth inning. Meanwhile the D-Rays were still having success. Jorge Cantu came home with Damon Hollins on his two run shot in the fourth (4-0). Lugo came on down when Huff hit a deep fly into the waiting glove of Craig Monroe in the fifth and Nick Green batted himself home in the sixth (6-0).
Finally in the bottom of the sixth, the Tigers started to generate some offense. Logan beat out a single and Inge earned a walk only to be forced out at second when Ivan Rodriguez hit into a fielder’s choice. Rondell White hit a single, scoring Logan and advancing Pudge to third (6-1). Dmitri Young hit the ball off Kazmir scoring Rodriguez but getting thrown out at first (6-2). Seth McClung replaced the hobbled Kazmir and ended the inning promptly. The Tigers got two men on in each of the eighth and ninth only to see them stranded. A sweep would have been nice but a series win is still great.