Written by Mike Laws
One very bad inning
Cabrera’s slam caps eight-run Tiger fourth
Detroit 10, Orioles 3
Well, let’s not waste anyone’s time. Sure, there might’ve been more than one talking point to emerge from Saturday afternoon’s limp excuse for a game two with the Tigers — say, how Jason Hammel somehow held it (mostly) together through three innings, or how J.J. Hardy managed to homer twice against the (Arguable) Best Pitcher in Baseball, Justin Verlander — but sometimes, this sport being the fickle beast that it is, one half of one inning is enough to tell the whole story.
With that in mind, let’s forgo the bullet points and just tick off everything that happened in the Detroit fourth:
I guess we should set the scene: We’re at this point rolling right along at 1-1, Hardy having just knotted the affair with a liner into the second row in left, Hammel scuffling along, largely warding off what could’ve been bookoo damage — he’d surrendered only a two-out second-inning RBI single from Matt (“Thorne’s Nightmare”) Tuiasosopo — but also needing a whole heck of a lot of pitches to do it (though, weirdly, he’d actually just retired the side, including Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, on six total deliveries, in the third). Anyway, the Oriole starter began his fourth frame by falling 3-0 to still-slumping Victor Martinez — and, since he’d already walked three Detroit hitters, must’ve been understandably loath to issue another free pass, because Hammel then grooved a couple of strikes, the second of which Martinez clobbered down the right-field line, just inside the foul pole onto the flag court.
OK, no biggie. The odd solo homer we can live with. The problem is when the solo shots start racking up — like when Jhonny (“Why in God’s Name Is It Spelled That Way”) Peralta fell behind in the count (which was probably a little deceiving, as on his second strike he fouled a Hammel meatball straight back into the screen, meaning he likely just missed squaring up on it), then worked the count even, then belted a drive out into the bleachers in left. Then also there was Alex Avila, next up, meaning still no one down; and Avila, too, worked the count in his favor, 2-1, before smashing a third straight Tiger home run to center.
At which point something funny happened. Or, well, not funny ha-ha, but … you know. Anyway: Hammel, on his very next pitch, plunked Tuiasosopo — and was immediately (as in, pretty much as the pitch thwacked against the Detroit left fielder) given the heave-ho by home-plate ump Hunter Wendelstedt. Don’t they issue a warning, first, usually? And wasn’t it apparent to Wendelstedt, as it was to the fans in section 336, that Hammel’s pitch had been a breaking ball? In any event, Hammel, again understandably, went totally apoplectic, as did Buck Showalter, who, after stiff-arming his hurler out of Wendelstedt’s grille, proceeded to pull a pretty convincing Earl Weaver impression for something like a full minute (with it being some kind of miracle — or maybe a kind of acknowledgment of error from the ump — that Buck didn’t get ejected himself). Ugh …
So enter T.J. McFarland. He’ll stanch the bleeding, right? After all, it wasn’t like Hammel was having a banner afternoon; maybe Hammel getting tossed would turn out a blessing in disguise. But, well, nope. McFarland promptly — read: first pitch — coughed up a single to Avisail Garcia, advancing Tuiasosopo a bag; the lefty long man then delivered precisely two pitches to Omar Infante, before Infante hooked a double inside the third-base line. So Tuiawhatever scores, it’s now 5-1 Tigers, still nobody retired. And now McFarland walks Andy Dirks on five pitches. Uh-oh. Bases loaded for Cabrera. Do any of us even doubt for a second what’s going to happen here? Last year’s Triple Crown winner falls into a 1-2 hole but proceeds to work the count full; there’s nowhere to put him. And so Cabrera, sitting dead-red on the fastball, jacks one way out to left. That’s a grand slam. 9-1. Eight in. And still not an out recorded in the inning.
And here’s where I suppose I could go on and talk about how McFarland, improbable though it seemed, went on to retire the next three hitters, then went about his mop-up work admirably over the next two innings, conceding only a sixth-inning Fielder blast to center; I guess I could also talk about Chris Davis’s two-out RBI single, back in the Oriole fourth, or Hardy’s second leadoff long-ball, in the fifth, or how Troy Patton and Tommy Hunter took over from McFarland and looked basically fine, and kept the margin to (yeesh) seven … but what’s the point? In my book, the quicker we all forget this inning/game/day ever happened, the better. Live to fight another day. Rubber match tomorrow, people. And I’m out.
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