Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis reacts as he rounds the bases after hitting a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday against the Athletics. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Detroit — When Rajai Davis connected on that hanging slider late Monday night, and the ball sailed high and into the left-field bullpen at Comerica Park, history was made.
For just the second time in franchise history, a Tiger hit a “super” walk-off grand slam.
What does that mean?
Simple: A batter steps to the plate in the last inning, with his team trailing by exactly three runs — and he connects for the winning grand slam.
According to the Baseball Almanac, there have been only 28 of these in the history of this great game.
The last ones were in 2011, when three players actually did it.
But the last for the Tigers was in 1988 — and the man who hit that one actually was in attendance Monday. That man was Alan Trammell, on hand for the 30th reunion of the 1984 world champions.
Trammell’s big blast actually happened in 1988, at old Tiger Stadium. The night was June 21, a Tuesday, and the Yankees —not the mighty bunch they would soon become — were in town. They jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead off Jack Morris, and led 6-1 when the ninth inning began.
That, of course, is when the fun began.
Against Yankees reliever Neil Allen, Dave Bergman led off with a single, and Darrell Evans walked. That brought in Dave Righetti to face Matt Nokes, who singled to load the bases. After Pat Sheridan lined out and Tom Brookens struck out, Lou Whitaker and Luis Salazar each had run-scoring walks.
Yankees manager Billy Martin then went to the bullpen again, for a right-hander named Cecilio Guante, who was in the midst of a fine season.
But this would be a night to forget.
On Guante’s sixth pitch — and with less than half of the crowd of 26,535 already departed, certain of a Tigers loss — Trammell lofted a long fly ball to left, and into the seats for the walk-off grand slam.
Or, as it’s actually known, the “super” walk-off grand slam.
On Monday morning, he had no company in that department. And on Monday night, he did, in Davis.
Now, on to this week’s Tigers Mailbag:
Question: You see the Tigers getting a veteran left-handed hitter that can hit clutch, come off the bench and play defense? Eric Chavez or Ichiro Suzuki? — Fredi Bello
Answer: Yes, the Tigers probably could use another left-handed bat. Outside of Victor Martinez and Alex Avila, they have nothing in that department.
But help isn’t likely to come from the trade market.
It’s likely to come from Andy Dirks, who’s getting awfully close to heading out on a rehabilitation assignment with a minor-league team, following spring back surgery. Assuming it’s a common timetable, that means Dirks could be in Detroit in a week-and-a-half or two.
The Tigers believe Dirks can be the spark they need, on offense and defense.
And I tend to agree — assuming the knee issues were really behind his subpar season in 2013.
With Dirks in the fold, the Tigers probably won’t have room for another addition on offense. Think about it. The bench is four players deep. Bryan Holaday gets one of those spots, as the backup catcher. Andrew Romine gets one of those spots, as the backup infielder. And then there are two outfielders — whoever’s not playing among the group of Dirks, Davis, Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter and J.D. Martinez.
Not long ago, it seemed the Tigers would be wise to look for a left-handed bat to take the spot of J.D. Martinez, but he’s not going anywhere — not while he’s killing everything in sight.
Sure, the Tigers could cut a declining Hunter, but that’s unlikely. His OBP is awful, but his power remains, and he still can contribute in that department.
So, really, the only opening for a left-handed stick would be for a utility infielder. Good luck finding one of those who can contribute mightily on offense. If those existed, they wouldn’t be utility infielders. They’d be starters.
Question: I think Brad Ausmus should stop moving Jackson around so much in the lineup. Find a spot and stick with it. What’s your opinion? — Andrew Potter
Answer: Jackson certainly has been the man on the move this year.
On Sunday, he batted leadoff, his old role under the Jim Leyland Tigers. On Monday, he batted ninth, for the second time in his career (in a start). And on Tuesday, he was back at leadoff.
He’s also started six games batting second, 22 games batting fifth, 32 games batting sixth and 37 games batting seventh. For his career, the only spots he hasn’t started at are cleanup and eighth.
This year, the shuffling hasn’t seemed to do him any favors, as he’s batting just .242 with a .309 on-base percentage and a .355 slugging percentage. Those all are career lows at an inopportune time for Jackson — seeing as how the Tigers have to make a decision on the center fielder really soon. He’s a free agent following next season.
That said, it’s entirely impossible to know if the less-defined role is messing up Jackson — or whether, and this is more likely, he simply is in one of his pull-happy funks.
He was out early Monday with hitting coach Wally Joyner, working on going the other way. Then in his first two at-bats, he hit shots the opposite way — albeit, for unlucky outs. Later, though, he had the plate appearance of the season, when he worked a nine-pitch walk ahead of Davis’ big blast.
Maybe that, and not settling into one position in the order, will finally get him going.
“There’s been some at-bats where I’ve really put some good swings on the ball,” Jackson said following Monday’s thrilling win. “Just wasn’t fortunate enough to find some grass out there.”
Question: Why haven’t the Tigers retired the numbers of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker? — Mike Check, via email
Answer: You really know how to get me worked up, Mike.
This is a hot-button issue for me — and it sends my stress levels through the roof.
Let’s be clear: There is zero rational reason why the Tigers have yet to permanently retire the No. 3 of Trammell and the No. 1 of Whitaker. The two men are heroes in Detroit, the longest-serving double-play combination of baseball history.
They both played their entire careers in Detroit, 19 years together, and won a World Series.
So, what are the Tigers waiting for?
Simple, and stupid: They’re waiting for Tram and Lou to go into the Hall of Fame, as if the Tigers want the validation. But as we know, the two have been grossly ignored by the Baseball Writers Association of America voters — while the likes of Barry Larkin and Ryne Sandberg have waltzed right through the doors at Cooperstown.
I don’t agree with the Hall of Fame voters’ treatment of Tram and Lou, but I get it. It’s a national voting bloc, and not everyone can appreciate what those two did in Detroit. Not everyone saw them day in and day out, side by side, for two decades.
But the Tigers, well, they have no excuse for not putting those numbers on the brick wall, and commissioning a bronze statue of the two of the them, fittingly, turning two.
Then again, this is the same organization that waited until after Sparky Anderson had died to retire his No. 11. So for all the Tigers do to honor the past — and the 30th anniversary tribute Monday night was really a treat — they still miss the boat far more than they should.
Question: If Eugenio Suarez continues to play well this season, where does he play when Jose Iglesias comes back next year? – Dan Drouillard
Answer: No creativity points for you, Dan. I get this question about once a week these days.
That said, it’s still a legitimate question — though it’s way too early to even guess how this all could play out. Odds are, they both head to spring training next year with their eyes on the starting prize — and they’ll battle it out till camp breaks in late March.
More likely, they’ll still both be on the Tigers’ 25-man roster, if healthy, next year — sharing time at shortstop, and both coming off the bench their fair share.
Suarez projects as the better hitter, Iglesias the better defender.
If there’s one reason Suarez has the leg up to start at short, it’s this: Iglesias is more versatile, and can be moved around, to third base and second base if the need arises.
Of course, with GM Dave Dombrowski, there’s always the possibility of a trade, too.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. We just don’t need to figure it out today.
Question: Baseball is boring. Hard to get fired up for one of 162 in June. – Ric Moody
Answer: Ric sent me this tweet shortly after 10 p.m. Monday.
A half-hour later, Davis made history with his slam.
And Comerica Park went crazy.
If that’s dull, then I’m a Pulitzer winner.