Saturday, August 30, 2008

MSU at Cal game blog Aug. 30

Final thoughts

• Another tough pill for local football fans to swallow. First, the disappointment in Ann Arbor, then, on the opposite side of the country, the disappointment follows.

• First thing that stands out to me is Cal's sophomore running back Jahvid Best. You heard some whispers about him before and I've heard comparisons to Reggie Bush. At first, those sounded a little far-fetched but this guy is sweet, real sweet. He finished the game with 280 total yards: 113 rushing, 63 receiving and 104 returning.

• He's a big-play guy. He accounted for five plays of 20 yards or more and 11 plays of over 10 yards or more.

• Hoyer didn't play great but he didn't play bad, either -- whatever that means. 325 yards is a lot but they were playing from behind virtually the whole second half. His receivers also didn't help him out with the completion percentage.

• This was a real good game. I can't say that it surpassed my expectations because heading in, I was expecting this kind of game. It was high-scoring, competitive until the end and there were a lot of big plays.

Fourth quarter

• Cal starts its fourth drive of the second half at its own eight-yard line. I'm expecting and hoping for a Jahvid Best show -- he's one play away from being my favorite college player.

• The drive stalls but their punter is a freshman and he's sweet too. He downs one inside the MSU five-yard line. I've been meaning to say I like Cal's jerseys too. I might start a NCAA dynasty with Cal. Too bad I still play NCAA 2006. True story.

• MSU takes over deep in their own zone. Really deep. At the three. Two plays in, Hoyer gets on a little sideline roll, executing consecutive completions of 19 and 25 as they try and dig out of their hole.

• No. 83 -- I can't lie I don't even know his name -- but he drops a pass to kill the drive. He hasn't played the best game of his life today. A big holding penalty earlier and a couple of drops.

• Roughing the kicker penalties have to take one year off of a coach's life. Cal is whistled for one and the drive is still alive.

• With 11:05 left in the fourth, Ringer bounces outside then inside then sprints back outside for a touchdown. 24-21, Cal.

• There's my boy Best ... 35 yards on the kickoff return. Moments later, an Eli Manning to David Tyree moment. Riley scrambles around and is draped by a Spartan defender. He stays on his feet, figures why not, and throws a 26-yard prayer complete to Morrah.

• Then my main man Best -- who, no offense to MSU fans is my favorite college player -- does his thing and weaves to the four, followed a couple of plays later by a Cal touchdown. Riley to Ta'ufo'ou. Read that name. Try it. I dare you. Now let me pick up my handy Cal depth chart and see what the pronounciation is (tau-FOH-oh). 31-21, Cal.

• Swenson hits a 35-yarder to cut the lead to seven. 4:38 to go. 31-24, Cal. Both teams have two timeouts. Cue The Final Countdown, baby.

• Oh, how quickly a seven-point lead can double. First play, Shane Vereen busts one off-tackle down the sidelines and he is gone. Like long gone. He outran two Spartan defenders for 81 yards. He's a freshman too. If there's one thing I learned about Cal today, it's they have two fast running backs. 38-24, Cal.

• MSU gets the ball back and just when the Spartans appear dead in the water, they catch another break in the form of a Cal interception that touched the turf in between the defenders outstretched hands. It was a really nice play, capitalizing on a bad throw by Hoyer, short and behind the receiver. Dantonio challenged the call and won.

• Two plays later, Hoyer connects with Dell for a 29-yard touchdown and MSU is back within a touchdown.

• As MSU prepares to decide to put the fate of the game in the hands of their defense or kicker, I have to say this: Hoyer has played a good game. The interception to end the half wasn't a good pass but for the most pat he's shown a strong and accurate arm and his receivers haven't given him any help today.
The Spartans elect to kick deep and here we go ...

• Vereen and Best combine for a first down and the clock is dwindling on Michigan State's opener.

• Michigan State holds them on third down and Cal runs the clock out to 40 seconds after the punt bounces around and out of play.

• Hoyer and the Spartans have 40 seconds and needs 72 yards to tie.

• First play: Hoyer connects with Dell for 22 yards and he receives one heck of a hit in the process and hangs on. Ball is at midfield.

• I swear I was going to give Dell a nickname earlier in the blog and now I feel as if I'm behind the curve -- this guy has impressed me big time -- he's got nine receptions for 201 yards and a touchdown. "The Computer" was going to be the nickname by the way. That was stupid, I know.

• Three more incomplete passes put the clock at 18 seconds on 4th and 10 and this play is the game.

• Hoyer overshoots a receiver, the ball tipping off two Cal defensive backs, and all that's left to do is kill the clock. Cal wins, 38-31.

Third quarter

• Cal can't get anything going on their first drive and on fourth-down, the snap is low and the ball skips by the punter Anger. He tries to scoop the ball up and give it a boot but the Spartan defense swarms him and now the breaks that were going Cal's way in the first half are pointing towards the green and white.

• Starting just outside the ten, Dantonio rides Ringer into the end zone for four rushes, culminating in a one-yard touchdown. 17-14, Cal, 11:00 left in the third quarter.

• Riley is starting to make himself feel at home in the MSU secondary. He hooks up with senior Sean Young down the left sideline for a 42-yard gain, down to the six-yard line. Two plays later, Cal scores on a four-yard touchdown pass from Riley to Morrah for a 10-point Cal lead as the lights start to show at the stadium. 24-14, Cal, with six minutes left in the third.

• Dantonio insists on continuing to run Ringer -- who has 19 carries for 54 yards -- and Ringer isn't getting much help from his offensive line. The space just isn't there. Late in the third, I would start creating some tempo with Hoyer, who has only thrown one pass this half.

Halftime thoughts

• In the first half, Dantonio tried desperately to get Ringer involved, but he finished the half with only 35 yards on 13 carries.

• His counterpart, Jahvid Best, is looking more and more like he's going to fulfill the promise he carried into the season. He has 121 yards of total offense so far.

• Michigan State -- although putting together patches of streaky offense -- seems allergic to the end zone. Five punts, an interception and missed field goal aren't going to get the job done.

Second quarter

• Early in the second, the fleet-footed Best shows a glimpse of the Reggie Bush comparisons that have been floated around. He takes the handoff, cuts left and eludes a defender, scampering for 20 yards. Five minutes in, he has eight rushes for 47 yards.

• Cal can't cash in inside the ten and caps the 13-play, 66-yard drive with a field goal to take a 10-0 lead with 9:48 to play in the first half.

• MSU's offense -- which showed flashes early on but couldn't prolong those into points -- is starting to gain a rhythm with their first second-quarter possession. Ringer is grinding out tough yards and Hoyer delivers a nice pass to Mark Dell with a defensive lineman in his face.

• Awarded with a 15 yards after a Cal facemask, Ringer shifts his way to the doorstep of the goal line from the nine-yard line but there's a Michigan State hold and two plays later, they're behind the 20 facing third and long.

• On third and long, Hoyer delivers a pinpoint toss into the outstretched arms of Dell, just inside the end zone for a MSU touchdown -- but hold your horses, people, here comes the review team. It was an absolute perfect pass from Hoyer, as Dell was just outside the 15 when he let the ball fly, and the catch was equally as spectacular. A handful of replays later, the play is erased and out trots the field goal team.

• Being reviewed was the question of if the ball hit the ground, and it looked like Dell had his hand cradling it, but the official decided otherwise.

• Tough break for MSU. A perfectly executed play determined by less than an inch on replay. If I were wearing the zebra stripes, I would have upheld the cal on the field.

• MSU's special teams continue to implode as Brett Swenson pulls the chip-shot wide left into a sea of blue and gold. Cal takes over deep in their own zone with just over six minutes left in the half.

• Tedford is now giving senior Nate Longshore -- who received much criticism for his play during 2007 -- a number of snaps behind center, spelling the sophomore Riley, who was named the starter last week.

• On the first play of the drive, Riley connects with tight end Cameron Morrah for a 50-yard reception down the left sidelines. One play, half of the football field and Cal is in business again.

• After two more completions, Longshore is intercepted by senior safety Otis Wiley at the goal line. Like being shot out of a cannon, Wiley shoots up the gut to midfield.

• A huge play for the Spartan defense. Cal was barreling down on more points and was moving down the field with ease.

• After another three-and-out -- all Hoyer incompletions -- Cal takes over inside of their ten. Two plays later, Longshore heaves an ill-advised pass into a trio of Spartans, right into the hands of Wiley -- his second interception of the game. This time, all Wiley can see is the house and he takes a trip for six. 10-7, Cal, 3:00 second quarter.

• I don't know what they're doing with this quarterback carousel, but Longshore has two picks in five attempts. Riley has none in nine and has about 100 more yards. You do the math.

• Cal gets the ball back and Best does what he does, well, Best: Riley dumps him off a pass and he sprints his way down the field for a 42-yard gain.

• Two plays later -- after a 24-yard Riley completion, making one wonder why any other Cal quarterback would take a snap this game -- Best takes a handoff, uses his speed to dust three Spartans to the right and scores. 17-7, California, 1:45 left in the half.

• Today's ABC sideline reporter Heather Cox feels the need to report to us the most obvious of information: Best is a sprinter. He's a football player that wants to run track for Cal, and his numbers would meet the Olympic qualifying standards. So, in other words, he's really, really, really fast.

• With a minute left in the half, Hoyer orchestrates a Spartan drive into the Cal zone, looking to steal a few points heading into the half, but his first and 10 pass from the 12-yard line with 20 seconds left is an awful lob that's intercepted by Cal and the half ends.

First quarter

• It's a beautiful evening at Memorial Stadium and Dantonio is wasting no time in serving Cal a heavy dose of Ringer -- he is back deep to return the first kick and takes the first two rushes, gaining a total of five yards to set up an early 3rd and 5 for the Spartans.

• Senior quarterback Brian Hoyer -- looking to turn his past failures around -- will be searching early for a go-to guy after Devin Thomas bolted early for the draft in April. The early money is on redshirt freshman B.J. Cunningham: Hoyer completed two early passes to Cunningham for first downs and then connected for a long touchdown that was called back for offensive pass interference.

• MSU just barely avoids an early-game disaster as the drive stalls with a deep incomplete pass to Cunningham -- targeted for the fourth time on this drive. On the next play, a bad snap forces punter Aaron Bates to corral the ball on a bounce and get the kick off just in time.

• Cal goes three-and-out and the Spartans immediately return the favor after a booming Cal punt pins them inside their own 20. On fourth down, with Bates standing in his own end zone, he receives yet another low snap and this time he can't get the kick off: Cal's Brett Johnson blocks the punt, and it's recovered at the five by corner Bryant Nnanbuife, who dives in for a Cal touchdown. 7-0, California, 7:41 left in the first.

• MSU's insuing drive stalls at the Cal 37. Ringer has 24 yards on eight carries thus far -- more than half of the Spartans early offensive plays have gone through him.

• Coming into the game, it was no secret Ringer was going to get force-fed the ball, and it shows so far. Cal is stacking the line and nullifying any penetration by the MSU offensive line, routinely making contact with the runner within a yard or two of the line of scrimmage.

• The first quarter ends with Cal in possession at their own 35. The early special teams blunder aside, both the Spartans offense and defense has looked solid but if they're going to ride or die with Ringer, the big boys up front need to start pushing their weight.


The second year of the Mark Dantonio era at Michigan State kicks off roughly 2,300 miles west of East Lansing in Berkeley, California, where the Spartans will battle the Golden Bears of California in an intriguing opening week matchup that is merely as a blip on the opening week radar screen.

Tonight’s nationwide buzz is all about the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta, pitting two Top 25 teams, but this game could easily shape up as tonight’s best.

Here we have the Big Ten versus the Pac 10, two seven-win bowl teams from last year that finished near the bottom of their respective conferences yet bring to the table solid coaching, talent and promise.

In just a year’s time, Dantonio has seemingly changed the culture of Michigan State football, having his kids believing in the system. This isn’t your same old Spartan squad, and although last year’s record will disagree, all six losses in 2007 were by seven points or less.

Grabbing headlines for Michigan State is senior running back Javon Ringer, one of the best backs in the nation, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards last year while deferring a portion of carries to the departed Jehuu Caulcrick.

As clich̩ as it sounds, look for the Spartans to utilize Ringer early and often against a Cal defense that last year had problems stopping the ground game, allowing 164 yards per game in their 3-4 defense Рa defense historically good against the run.

Cal, who is notoriously overrated year-in and year-out, has good team speed on both sides of the ball and keep an eye out for sophomore running back/kick returner Jahvid Best. Best is a explosive runner, earning first-team All-Pac 10 special teams honors as a freshman with a 27-yard average on kicks last year. He missed three games last season due to a hip injury, but when running the ball, he gained 10 or more yards 37% of the time and Cal has a knack for churning out 1,000-yard rushers. (See: Arrington, J.J. and Lynch, Marshawn).

Cal coach Jeff Tedford – known around the country as a quarterback guru – will break in sophomore Kevin Riley for his first season opener and Tedford is 4-0 in his career against the Big Ten.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blue Jays at Tigers game blog Aug. 14


Fasten your seatbelts, folks, because history could be made today at Comerica Park. It’s not the kind of history Tigers fans want to see made, nor is it the kind of history anybody really cares about.

But after the opening three games of this series have embedded an image of a Tigers squad falling off the baseball map, desperately trying to cling on to anything to stop their freefall, we turn to the opening page of today’s Toronto Blue Jays game notes. (Talk about investigative journalism!)

Here is the second bulletin for today’s game: “The Blue Jays are looking to sweep the Tigers in a 4-game series for the 1st time in club history”

So there you have it. Either the Tigers win today, or they go down in history as the only Tiger team in history to drop a four-game set to their brothers from north of the border. And that’s just embarrassing.

Sarcasm aside, it’s been a lowly 20 games since the Tigers swept Kansas City, looking primed for a second-half run. In that span, the club has gone 7-13 – 3-7 in their previous ten – and has seen their bullpen go from bad to seemingly improved to bad to worse to “UGH!”, their playoff hopes going from maybe to non-existent.

Stellar rookie Armando Galarraga (10-4, 3.23 ERA) takes the hill against the recently recalled Jesse Litsch (8-7, 4.46). Galarraga’s second start this season came in Toronto, where he held the Blue Jays scoreless in 5 2/3 innings for the win.

Litsch opened his 2008 campaign on fire, with an April and May record of 7-1. Since June he has gone 16 with an ERA just above six, earning him a demotion to Triple-A Syracuse, where he made three starts. This is his first start since his demotion.

Blue Jays lineup: 2B Inglett, 3B Scutaro, RF Rios, CF Wells, DH Stairs, LF Lind, 1B Overbay, C Zaun, SS McDonald

Tigers lineup: CF Granderson, 2B Polanco, RF Ordonez, 1B Cabrera, DH Sheffield, LF Joyce, SS Renteria, 3B Inge, C Sardinha

Top First

Galarraga delivers today’s first pitch at six minutes past one, the weather an absolutely perfect 81-degree day with the sun shining through a small patch of clouds. With the team reeling, it’s days like this that keep the stands looking healthy.

Two pitches later, Toronto leadoff man Joe Inglett singles to right.

Marco Scutaro grounds a pitch sharply up the middle but Polanco takes a few steps to his right and snags it with a backhand and flips to Renteria for the force out.

Alex Rios follows by ripping a hanging Galarraga slider down the left field line – but just foul. Later in the at-bat, Rios grounds out to Inge, who forces Scutaro out at second. Rios beats the throw at first.

Last night’s villain – hitting a grand slam for Toronto’s only runs of the game – Vernon Wells grounds out to short to end the inning.

Bottom first

Granderson leads off with a deep fly to right center, straight at the scoreboard, looking like either a home run or an easy Granderson triple, but Rios catches up with the fly at the warning track, the wind helping to keep that one in the yard.

With two outs, Ordonez walks and Cabrera goes down on your normal 3-4-1 putout to end the inning. Lyle Overbay dove to his left, got leather on the ball but it skirted past him, only to be corralled by Inglett at second and flipped to the pitcher Litsch for the out.

Top second

Former Tiger Matt Stairs looks at strike three to open the top half of the second. If you don’t remember Stairs donning the Old English D, don’t fret because most people don’t. His defining moment as a Tiger came in the final game of the 2006 regular season, when his 8th inning home run against Kansas City wasn’t enough to propel the team to a division title.

After an Adam Lind walk, Overbay flies out to left and Gregg Zaun takes a called strike three to end the inning, Galarraga’s second called strikeout of the inning.

Bottom second

“BOO! ... first pitch … BOO! … second pitch …” That’s some guy sitting in the section behind the Jays dugout, trying to scare Sheffield off. The boos have considerably tapered off since Monday – think his two homers on Tuesday have anything to do with it? – but as he strikes out swinging, the tension between Sheffield and the fans remains.

Litsch strikes out Joyce on a nasty full count breaking ball for the second out.

Renteria singles through the hole at short and on the next pitch to Inge, he’s plunked in the shoulder, but the Tigers can’t capitalize. Backup catcher Sardinha – with a make-a-wish average of .111 at the time – grounds out to Litsch to end the inning. Through two at Comerica, no score.

Top third

Another former Tiger, John McDonald, leads off the third inning for Toronto and slaps one to the middle of the diamond, where Renteria closes in on the ball, retrieves it and takes one too many steps and fires late to first. McDonald was busting down the line and beats the throw. Renteria has to know the runner and his clock has to tell him that he can’t take the extra step and near-double clutch to get the runner out. The play is scored a single.

Inglett strikes out unjustly on an appeal to third base for the first out of the inning. Replays show his wrists never broke, keeping the bat head behind the plate. The pitch before was a backdoor slider that just missed the outside corner, so I’m thinking that had a little something to do with the appeal.

With two out and a man on first, Rios gave Galarraga all that he could ask for and more. It was an epic 11-pitch at-bat with five straight two-strike foul balls – one of which went straight into one of the TV or radio booths to my left – finally ending with Rios swinging over a Galarraga slider for his fourth strikeout.

Bottom third

Granderson draws a walk to open the third but that goes for naught as Polanco grounds into a 6-4-3 double play five pitches into his at-bat for a twin killing.

Magglio grounds hard into the hole at short and is nearly thrown out by an off-balance McDonald, but Magglio switches into his Michael Phelps-like second gear halfway down the line and beats the throw.

Cabrera grinds through a seven-pitch at-bat but ultimately grounds out to Litsch to end the inning. No score after three.

Top fourth

Inge records the first two outs of the fourth in typical Inge fashion. First, Wells hits a rocket to third that he plays on the short hop, then Stairs rolls one to his left – in shortstop territory, I might add – that he pounces on before delivering a dart that Cabrera scoops at first. Not bad for a catcher.

Lind flies out to end Galarraga’s first 1-2-3 inning of the day. Through four innings, he stands at 59 pitches.

Bottom fourth

Sheffield grounds out softly to lead off, the boos picking up with both outs made today, followed by Joyce nearly finding the hole at second base but he’s denied a base hit when Inglett makes a diving stop to his left for the second out of the inning.

Renteria lines out to third and we head to the fifth in a scoreless tie.

Top fifth

Galarraga’s fifth inning line one pitch in: One pitch, one hit, one run. Lyle Overbay disposes of the initial offering about 10 rows deep in right field, giving the Jays a 1-0 lead. The pitch was belt-high, right where they like ‘em.

After retiring the next two batters, Galarraga finds himself in a little bit of trouble after allowing two singles to Inglett and Scutaro. Scutaro’s single was a high chopper that hit off the hard dirt right in front of home plate, bounced once, then off of Galarraga’s right hand who tried to bare-hand the ball. Two on, two outs with Rios at the plate.

Did you know Alex Rios – whose non-abbreviated first name is Alexis – was born in Alabama? Neither did I, until I watched a Jays game on CBC earlier this year. Useless information aside, the Alabama-born Rios grounds to Renteria, who flips to Polanco for the ever-dangerous looking third out. Once again, Renteria needs to speed up that internal clock because it looked like Scutaro was very, very close to being safe on that play.

Tigers down one going into the bottom of the fifth, 1-0.

Bottom fifth

Inge flies out to right, Sardinha pops out to second base in the middle of the diamond, nearly touching the heavens in the process, and Granderson strikes out swinging in the Tigers fifth.

Litsch is pitching very well. He has three strikeouts and has limited the Tigers to only two hits, both singles. Jays up, 1-0 through five.

Top sixth

Wells grounds out to start the inning, followed by Stairs walking. Lind battles through an at-bat but finally flies out hard to Granderson for the second out.

Overbay grounds out to Polanco to end the inning and Galarraga is through six innings with his pitch count hovering right over the 90-pitch mark.

Bottom sixth

With one out, Magglio flies out deep on the first pitch he sees to the warning track in left field.

Cabrera bloops a pitch into right center between the second baseman Inglett and the centerfielder Wells for a two-out hit.

Sheffield then grounds one hard into the hole at short where McDonald makes a nifty play, leaping and delivering the throw in mid-air to second, where Cabrera is forced out by a step. 1-0 Toronto after six innings of play.

Both pitchers are pitching well, only allowing eight hits between them.

Top seventh

Galarraga trots – yes, he trots versus the majority of other pitchers walking – back out to the mound to start the seventh and promptly induces two fly outs to Ordonez in right.

On a 1-2 count to Inglett, Galarraga freezes him with a fastball right down the pipe, possibly his last pitch of the game, No. 108. The strikeout is his sixth of the game.

Bottom seventh

Matt Joyce leads off the Tigers seventh, with the crowd still on its feet after the seventh inning stretch. And stretch a couple runs across is exactly what the Tigers need to do right about now.

Joyce lines a single up the middle for the Tigers first leadoff baserunner of the game.

Renteria flies to left for the first out of the inning.

Litsch’s first pitch to Inge registers as his 106th of the game, and the Jays have double-barreled action in their bullpen – both a righty and lefty.

Inge grounds sharply down the third-base line, the ball fielded by Scutaro after two steps to his left. He forces Joyce out at first, but Inge beats the double play throw to keep the Tigers seventh alive.

Sardinha pops out to Inglett – who drifted to right field – to end the inning.

In his first start back from the minors, Litsch has dealt the Tigers seven innings of shutout ball, allowing only four hits. 1-0 Toronto after seven innings of play.

Top eighth

Jim Leyland elects to leave Galarraga in the ballgame, and with one out, Rios triples into the right-center gap. Granderson appeared to misplay the ball just a little bit, but the misplay wouldn’t have mattered, as Rios – who has good speed – was motoring around second before the ball reached Granderson.

With one out and Rios on third, Galarraga is pitching to the dangerous Mr. Wells with the infield brought in.

On a 3-1 pitch, Wells grounds one up the middle, a ball that looks like it will scoot through the cheating infield. Renteria takes one step to his left, dives, not coming up with the ball cleanly but keeping it in the infield. Rios can’t advance and the shortstop collects himself and throws Wells out at first.

Leyland is still leaning on Galarraga – with two pitchers up in the ‘pen – and Galarraga delivers, inducing a groundout off the bat of Stairs to Polanco at second.

Kudos to the skipper for letting Galarraga earn his stripes out on the mound. Experience like this for a young pitcher is invaluable, especially for a pitcher like Galarraga, who has shown his resiliency and mental toughness more than any pitcher on the staff.

With two at-bats left, the Tigers need to tally a run. Blue Jays 1, Tigers 0.

Bottom eighth

Granderson smokes one deep to the wall in right center, only to be denied of an extra-base hit for the second time today as three-time Gold Glove winner Wells outstretches his left arm behind his head and makes a wonderful catch a handful of feet away from the scoreboard. Patrolling the outfield in Toronto, Wells won three straight Gold Gloves between 2004-06.

Toronto manager Cito Gaston calls to his bullpen – southpaw Jesse Carlson entered the game strictly to face Granderson – for the right-handed Jason Frasor.

Frasor quickly falls behind Polanco 3-0, but works his way back, ultimately walking Polanco on a low pitch in the dirt.

Ordonez flies out to center, putting Cabrera at the dish with two outs and a runner on first.

Frasor uncorks a wild pitch and Polanco advances to second. It’s a big play that won’t get much pub in the box score, because now the tying run is on second and a base hit will most likely get the job done.

Cabrera comes through and singles hard through the hole at short. Polanco rounds third and heads for home, looking to score easily and does. Lind air-mails the ball from left field, over Zaun’s head and Cabrera reaches second base. Tigers tie the game at one in the eighth.

Oh, the irony in baseball. Toronto elects to intentionally walk Sheffield, drawing a symphonic array of boos from the crowd. Earlier in the game, Sheffield was receiving the boos, now the fans are booing the Jays for walking him. Two on, two out for Matt Joyce.

Joyce walks to load the bases for Renteria.

I had just enough time between the at-bats to get up, grab a pop, and get back into my seat by the time the Tigers had the lead. Renteria delivers on a first-pitch 94-MPH fastball that he laces into the left-center gap for a double, scoring two Tigers on the play.

The healthy crowd at Comerica has shown its first signs of life with the Tigers newfound lead.

Toronto makes a pitching change and Inge is up with runners on second and third and two outs.

Inge lines a single past the diving Scutaro into left field, plating two more Tigers, the good guys exploding for five runs in the bottom of the eighth – all with two outs.

Sardinha strikes out to end the big inning, and the team gets a round of applause as they try to close the game out in the ninth.

5-1, Tigers, with one to play.

Top ninth

Fernando Rodney jogs out to the mound to face Lind, Overbay and Zaun in the ninth as the Tigers try to avoid the four-game sweep.

Rodney retires the side in order, capping the game with two strikeouts, the last of which saw Zaun trotting down the first base line with an expected walk, only to be punched out at home.

Tigers win, 5-1 and avoid the sweep at home.


Both pitchers, Galarraga and Litsch, threw gems for their respective teams. Galarraga’s only blemish was a solo home run to Overbay in the fifth and Litsch shut down the Tigers through seven, only to see the bullpen squander his lead in the eighth.

When people look at the box score, they will see five Tigers runs in the bottom frame of the eighth. The five is important but the fact that all five came with two outs carries more weight.

I’m not even going to reference any kind of playoff race right here, because their play as of late doesn’t condone that. There’s nothing that we’ve seen as of late that indicates this squad is capable of putting together the kind of winning streak that is required to pull back into the race. Today’s win was nice, but it’s just a win.

Now the Tigers look forward to a weekend series at home against the Baltimore Orioles, who they split a four-game set with right after the All-Star break.