December 18, 2014
Sports of Sorts

Meltdown in Motown: Tigers blow seven-game September lead

Detroit loses six to five in extra innings

Posted 10/7/09

MINNEAPOLIS — Last night’s game was déjà vu of the 2006 season when the Tigers, who lead the division for most of the season, lost out to the Twins at the last possible second. Only this time, there won’t be a postseason for the Tigers to fall back on. The Red Sox put up a much better record so they’ll represent the American League as the wildcard this year.

The Tigers have no one to blame but themselves.

They led the division by seven games heading into September and the magic number — the number of Tigers’ wins and Twins’ losses needed to make the postseason — was down to two with three games left. Yet, they found a way to screw it up.

Edwin Jackson fell apart, Jared Washburn looked like Armando Galarraga and we had a different fifth pitcher every week. Miguel Cabrera was out partying with the enemy until six in the morning when he got in a spat with his wife, ultimately ending with the police coming out and an 0-for-7 performance during the weekend, and all of the Tigers’ batters, except for Cabrera and Ordonez, continued to hit under .300. This was the worst meltdown in MLB history. No team has ever blown a seven-game lead heading into September … except our very own 2009 Detroit Tigers.

For true fans of the game, the ride over the last week was both exhilarating and demoralizing. It was exhilarating because the race was so close and both teams came through in the 162nd game of the year, which was the final game for the other 28 MLB teams. And even in Tuesday’s 163rd game of the year, both teams played with such emotion and urgency you couldn’t help but be in awe. It was demoralizing, obviously, because the Tigers wound up going home, undoubtedly, disappointed.

The game was back and forth all the way through. The Tigers came out and took a 3-0 lead on a two-run Miguel Cabrera homerun, only to see it slip away in the middle innings as the Twins took a 4-3 lead on a Orlando Cabrera two-run shot. In the eighth though, Magglio Ordonez, who really came on after the all star break finishing over .300 on the year, hit his eighth dinger of the year to tie the game.

Then the game really took off in extra innings.

The Tigers took the lead 5-4 in the top of the 10th when Brandon Inge doubled down the line in left field. That didn’t last long. Closer Fernando Rodney gave up a run, in part, due to errors on a missed Ryan Raburn sliding catch on a Michael Cuddyer hit and a miss-played by Placido Polanco on an Alexi Casilla up the middle. The game would have been over that inning if not for Raburn redeeming himself with a spectacular throw to get Casilla out at home on a Nick Punto liner.

Detroit had the chance to build another lead in the top of 12 when they loaded the bases with one out. However, Inge hit a weak bouncer up the middle that got Cabrera out at home and Gerald Laird struck out swinging on a low full-count fastball thereafter. The bottom of the 12th the Twins finally sealed the deal with a Casilla single between first and second base that scored Carlos Gomez from second base as Clete Thomas wasn’t able to gun him down.

Tigers season over.

If anybody was to blame beside for the players for this meltdown, it has to be Leyland. He wasn’t able to keep his players inline and focused during the last month. They routinely blew leads and got down early. In Tuesday’s one-game playoff, Leyland displayed the same poor managerial skills he’s shown all year. He didn’t bunt with one out and a man on third during extra innings and he left Fernando Rodney in for more than three innings and the Twins got to him on a hit, walk and game-winning hit in the 12th. I’d be surprised if a change isn’t made next year.

But as for this year, it’s over. Tigers finish 2nd in the AL Central Division and one-half game out of the playoffs — truly disappointing.

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