Tigers bats prevail in rain-delayed marathon
Chicago — It really did have the atmosphere of pennant-race baseball, even though only one of these teams, in all likelihood, is actually going to the postseason, and it's not the Tigers.
Yet, amazingly and impressively, that didn't stop thousands of Detroit fans from pouring into Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, braving a two-hour, 17-minute rain delay, staying well into Wednesday morning and watching the Tigers show a little pride and lot of resilience in beating the Cubs, 10-8.
The night began with the long ball.
And then the Tigers won it with small ball in the eighth, when, in a tie game, Anthony Gose and Ian Kinsler — each of whom had homered earlier — bunted for base hits to spark the winning rally.
That rally was met by raucous roars from the Tigers fans, who might've actually made up more than half of the 39,684 in paid attendance, and if they didn't, they certainly sounded like it.
The "Let's Go Tigers" chants began before first pitch, and Cubs fans were no match to drown it out.
The Tigers' roars grew with one out in the first inning, when Ian Kinsler greeted Cubs starter Jason Hammel with a home run to left field. The next batter, Miguel Cabrera, hit a missile that originally was ruled a home run, but ended up being a fan-interference double after a review.
No matter, the next batter J.D. Martinez destroyed a pitch to center field for his 31st homer of the season.
And the party was on at Wrigley, at least for Tigers fans, whose team was up, 3-0.
The party didn't last forever, though, as the Cubs, clinging to a National League wild card, made the Tigers pay first for manager Brad Ausmus not getting Blaine Hardy into the game quick enough, and then for not getting him out of the game soon enough.
Ausmus disagreed with both assessments.
"We were running out of bullpen," Ausmus said. "We were running out of arms.
"You guys want to look at results, but there's a lot more going on than what you're watching on the field."
Having trailed 3-0 and 5-2 early, the Cubs tied it in the seventh inning when Dexter Fowler led off with a double off Hardy, then scored when Anthony Rizzo hit a two-out double.
Tigers reliever Buck Farmer cleaned up the fourth inning, then actually got to bat and swing away in the fifth inning — and lined a sharp single to center, a lefty hitter recording the knock off Cubs lefty Travis Wood.
Tigers fans screamed in delight.
The next half-inning, they screamed in horror when Farmer was allowed to face Cubs lefty slugger Kyle Schwarber with two men on. Schwarber bombed a homer to right to cut the Tigers lead to 6-5. Only then was then Hardy — who had only started warming up right before Schwarber got into the batter's box — was brought into the game.
Ausmus wanted to save Hardy for later, but he had to go to him after the Schwarber homer, and Hardy had four strikeouts in his two innings. But the Cubs got to him in the seventh, with Fowler and Rizzo tying things up.
It seemed like the Tigers were bound for another loss at the hands of the bullpen.
But Al Alburquerque (3-0) stranded the potential go-ahead run after relieving Hardy in the seventh, and the Tigers answered in the eighth.
Leading off, Gose, who is fast but not a good bunter, laid down a so-so bunt — but Cubs reliever Pedro Strop (1-6) fired wide of first. Then Kinsler followed with a beauty of a bunt toward third base, and made it without a throw, putting two on with nobody out.
Miguel Cabrera then walked to load the bases for J.D. Martinez, who put the Tigers back up with a sacrifice fly to center — scoring Gose and moving Kinsler to third. After Victor Martinez pinch-hit, was intentionally walked and then pinch-run for, Nick Castellanos delivered a two-run single.
The throw seemed to beat Cabrera, but was off line, and catcher Miguel Montero dropped it -- so the Tigers avoided another ugly out at the plate, like the one in the fifth inning, when Jose Iglesias made the last out at the plate, when holding him would've brought Cabrera up with the bases loaded.
Gose capped a huge night with a one-out double in the ninth inning; he then stole third and scored on a sacrfice fly by Kinsler, who finished with five hits and was a triple shy of the cycle.
Bruce Rondon worked the ninth inning, though he was extremely sloppy, with two runs allowed on two walks. Had Cabrera not made a sensational diving play, Rondon might've blown the four-run lead.
But the Tigers persevered, even when it looked like they wouldn't.
"That's what good teams do," Castellanos said. "It's a step in the right direction."
Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez and Hammel saw their nights end with the rain delay, though who knows how much longer either would've lasted. Hammel gave up nine hits in his three innings and Sanchez three in his 2-1/3 innings, including another homer, by Chris Coghlan, the 29th Sanchez has allowed.
The mega-storm came blowing in with one out and a runner on second in the bottom of the third.
When play resumed, Tigers reliever Tom Gorzelanny was called upon to face the Cubs string of lefty hitters and he retired them all. Sanchez already had two strikes on Schwarber, and Gorzelanny finished him off with one pitch, then struck out Coghlan and got Rizzo to ground out.
The Tigers and Cubs finish their two-game series at 8:08 Wednesday, with Daniel Norris going for the Tigers and Jon Lester for the Cubs. Both teams would prefer the starters go deep, after using a combined 14 pitches in the Tuesday/Wednesday, 5-hour, 53-minute (including delay) spectacle that might've felt like a playoff game, but perhaps only because of thousdans of enthusiastic Tigers fans.