Detroit — 1984 was, easily, the most magical year in recent Tigers memory.
But it’s been 8-5 — as in Aug. 5 — that’s been super special in recent years.
Alex Avila’s home run in the top of the 12th inning at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, leading to a 4-3 victory in the Bronx, provided the latest chapter on a day that’s quickly becoming a storage unit packed to the ceiling with Tigers heroics.
■ Aug. 5, 2006: The Tigers entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing the Indians, 3-2, with closer Fausto Carmona on the mound. Brandon Inge reached on a bunt single and Curtis Granderson followed with a strikeout. Placido Polanco then grounded into a fielder’s choice, forcing Inge. Up came Pudge Rodriguez, who sent the first pitch he saw into the summer sky. Rodriguez knew it was gone, raising his hands as soon as he dropped the bat as the Tigers walked off winners.
■ Aug. 5, 2012: In the top of the 10th inning, the Indians took a three-run lead, putting closer Chris Perez on the mound to finish it off. After he got the first two batters out, it seemed like a slammed door. But Alex Avila walked, Andy Dirks walked, Austin Jackson doubled in Avila, and Omar Infante knocked in both Dirks and Jackson with a single. And just like that the game was tied. Five pitches later, Miguel Cabrera ended it when he sent a fastball on the outside corner into the bullpen for a 10-8 victory.
■ Aug. 5, 2013: At Progressive Field, in Cleveland, the Tigers again trailed in the ninth inning, this time by two runs, in a pivotal meeting of two teams vying for the American League Central Division crown. Detroit hadn’t scored in the first eight innings, despite eight hits. But once again facing Perez — who, it turns out, was in his final days as Indians closer — Prince Fielder led off with a double, and Victor Martinez singled him in to make it a one-run game. Then after Andy Dirks walked, Avila stepped to the plate, took a fastball toward the outside corner and lofted it over the high fence in left-center field. Even the mild-mannered Avila pumped his fist rounding the bases, and Fielder and Martinez bear-hugged.
It’s worth noting, Tuesday actually marked the fourth consecutive year the Tigers have won an Aug. 5 thriller. In 2011, Brennan Boesch’s RBI single in the top of the 10th led to a victory over the Royals.
In fact, seven of the last nine games the Tigers have played on Aug. 5 have been decided in walk-off fashion, in the ninth or in extra innings. The Tigers won five of those.
By the way, a quick look back in Tigers history, via Baseball-Reference.com, shows a couple more notable Aug. 5 games. In 1929, Charlie Gehringer had a franchise-record three triples — in a loss — and in 1931, Tommy Bridges retired the first 26 Senators before allowing a hit to pinch-hitter Dave Harris.