Detroit — A look back at what went down at Comerica Park on Tuesday night — which is, to say, one of the most exciting games in recent Tigers memory.
News: Austin Jackson has been sparkless since the first inning of Game 1, but came up big when the Tigers needed him most.
Views: Sure did, and it wasn’t all that surprising. He’s a streaky player who strikes out a lot, but also has had his share of big hits in a Tigers uniform.
None, though, was bigger than the broken-bat single he looped into right field to drive in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.
No surprise to anyone who’s watched Jackson this series, but he quickly fell behind 0-2 to tough left-hander Sean Doolittle. Then, though, he got tough, fouling off some tough pitcher’s pitches, including one well up that he just as easily could’ve swung right over.
Then he got a pitch he could handle and dropped it just in front of right fielder Josh Reddick, and as quickly as the sellout crowd turned on Jackson — as he struck out for the eighth time this series, then the ninth, and then the 10th to pull into a tie for second, all-time, in division-series infamy – it was right back in his corner.
How did Jackson not let the struggles get to him?
“You can’t, with these guys constantly pumping me up,” Jackson said. “After coming back to the dugout, they tell me, ‘Keep your head up.’ Torii (Hunter), Jhonny (Peralta), they kept telling me, ‘You’re gonna get a big hit, don’t worry about it, keep going out there and keep battling.’”
Battle, Jackson did.
But only after some mid-game trips back to the clubhouse, where he pored over video of previous at-bats. Think about that: Season on the brink, and there was Jackson, like a college senior cramming for a final exam.
And what did he see?
“Just swing and miss,” Jackson said, laughing.
Most of the night, yes. But not at the pitch that mattered most — not just to his psyche, but also, perhaps, the Tigers’ season.
News: Peralta was at it again, following up his heroics in Game 3 — which briefly tied the game — with more fireworks in Game 4 – also which briefly tied the game.
Views: It may get overlooked a bit, because it happened early in the evening, but Peralta’s home run likely was the biggest hit of the night.
Admit it, Tigers fans. After Detroit fell behind 3-0, you weren’t exactly making plans to watch a baseball game Thursday evening.
But Peralta changed that with one mighty swat in the fifth inning, lining a three-run home run just over the outstretched glove of Yoenis Cespedes in left (funny, moments earlier, Hunter just missed bringing back Jed Lowrie’s home run to right).
And a team that managed six runs, total, in the three previous games in the series — and didn’t have a hit through four innings Tuesday — had three runs on one swing.
Big. Very big.
“He wake everybody up,” Miguel Cabrera said of Peralta’s blast. “We’re sleeping the whole series.”
Forget the whole series. These Tigers woes on offense go back a lot further than that. Consider, Peralta’s home run was the team’s first since Sept. 24.
“Without Jhonny in the first half, we probably we wouldn’t even win the division,” Hunter said of Peralta, who was an All-Star before he was suspended 50 games for his ties to baseball’s Biogenesis investigation. “When we lost him, it was rough on us. So just have him back, it’s awesome.”
News: The series now shifts to Oakland, for Game 5 on Thursday night.
Views: And don’t think for a second that there’s not great pressure on the A’s.
Oakland hasn’t figured out how to beat Detroit in the Billy Beane/Moneyball era. The Tigers swept the A’s out of the ALCS in 2006, and beat them in five games in the ALDS a year ago. And this year, just when some A’s might’ve thought for a second that the series was their’s (up three runs, with the Tigers being no-hit), it most definitely is not.
I thought that if the Tigers were able to scratch out a win in Game 4 on Tuesday night, they would win the series in Oakland. This team has won tough elimination games on the road before, in New York in 2011 and in Oakland in 2012. The Tigers obviously have some fight left. And they will just happen to have their biggest-game pitcher, Justin Verlander, on the mound.
He was nearly flawless in shutting out the A’s in Game 5 an autumn ago — and in three playoff starts against the A’s the last two years, including this year’s Game 2, he’s allowed a measly one run on 11 hits in 23 innings while striking out 33.
The A’s will counter with … uhh … TBA. Melvin wouldn’t say who their Game 5 starter, though there are two logical choices: Game 1 starter Bartolo Colon, or Game 2 starter Sonny Gray. Yeah, OK, let’s make that one big, not-as-fat logical choice. The Tigers can hit Colon; they didn’t come close to hitting the whisker-less Gray.
Some may bark that Gray, 23, isn’t ready for this, all the stifling pressure with a team’s season on the line. Please. He looked just fine Saturday, in what, for all intents and purposes, was a must-win.
Expect the A’s to see what the kid’s made of — again.