Orioles may have dislodged the sleep from the eyes of the Tiger

Miguel Cabrera greets his teammates after slugging a grand slam on Saturday against the Orioles.

Miguel Cabrera greets his teammates after slugging a grand slam on Saturday against the Orioles.

There are a lot of things that make our Tigers, “our Tigers.”

There’s the brilliance of Justin Verlander, the freaky eyes and nasty cut fastball of Max Scherzer, the long limbs of Doug Fister, the unfathomable way that Prince Fielder seems to run faster than he should be able to, the grizzled Marlboro Man look of Jim Leyland, and the utter awesomeness of Miguel Cabrera. Let’s not forget the painstaking, frustrating, terrifying performances of our closer – the man we call Big Potato and Papa Grande. (Sorry to remind you)

This weekend, in the first two games of a three-gamer in Baltimore against the Orioles, many of those things have been on display. Friday night, Jose Valverde blew a two-run lead in an epic collapse. Then, on Saturday, the Tigs lambasted the Birds, 10-3, rocketing five home runs out of the hitter’s paradise that is known as Camden Yards.

It was Saturday’s game that I want to focus on here, if for no other reason than if I try to write about Papa Grande right now, I’ll be tempted to hurl my laptop across the room the way Bobby Knight used to toss chairs. I’d like to maintain a healthy blood pressure level, please.

Back to Saturday. The Tigers were on a four-game losing streak, having dropped two 11-inning nailbiters to the Pirates and the shocking walkoff on Friday after Big Potato got Mashed. The experts were starting to whisper about this team again. According to Las Vegas, the Tigers were odds-on favorites to win the Whole Shabang. Just like last year, though, the club has been inconsistent and downright maddening at times. A choir seems to have assembled in the wings to start singing verses of “Here We Go Again.”

But then on Saturday, the O’s did two things that may have turned the Tigers from placid pussycats into ferocious felines.

In the 4th inning of another tight game, Victor Martinez yanked a pitch into right field for a home run, just his third of the season. Martinez has been largely silent during the ’13 season after missing all of 2012 with a hip injury. Most Tiger fans have been willing to give him a grace period, but time is running out on that. The time has come for Martinez to become VMart again, after spending most of this season more like KMart (blue light special on weak grounders to second base). The homer to lead off the 4th was an encouraging sign.

Following VMart’s blast came a home run from Jhonny Peralta, who is the best hitting shortstop in the American League right now. A few pitches later, Alex Avila went opposite field for a home run, giving the Tigers a trifecta of taters for the first time since before The War on Terror started. Avila’s bat has been more like a limp noodle the last two seasons, and if he doesn’t start providing some punch at the dish, he’s liable to lose his job to Brayan Pena, who is a nice player, but hasn’t been an everyday catcher since he played at Single-A ball with Myrtle Beach in 2003. Avila’s fortune has fallen as far and as fast as that of Lindsay Lohan.

After the three straight homers, Baltimore pitcher Jason Hammel aimed his very next pitch at the noggin of Matt Tuiasosopo, who deftly ducked and took the dart off his shoulder. Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt correctly thumbed Hammel out of the game, but the fire was lit beneath the Tigers’ tail. The next two Detroit batters lined base hits and Andy Dirks then drew a walk to load the bases. That’s when someone named T.J. McFarland tried to fire a fastball past Miguel Cabrera, which is like to trying to sneak a bag of Skittles past a 3rd grader. Not going to happen. Cabby flicked his bat and launched a line drive grand slam to left field that might as well have been screaming the words, “Ball don’t lie!”

That was four homers in a 4th inning that saw the Tiger offense puff out their chest and let out a big “Rrrroooar!!!” Prince Fielder added a monster shot out of the playing field to center field in the 6th inning that served as an exclamation point.

Now, Saturday’s lopsided victory may be just one game in the standings, but it seems like it was a lot more than that. Coming on the heels of the Valverde blown save, and the way the season has been like a teeter-totter, this game was a big statement. The Tigers made it known that they’re a team to be reckoned with, that they’re a team with tremendous weapons, and that they’re the defending league champs.

I didn’t even mention yet that Verlander was on the mound for seven strong innings in this game, a fitting capper to a big victory. The ace of the staff, who has had some uncharacteristic struggles in recent weeks, exerted his dominance over the Orioles and kept his cool, even after his teammate had been unfairly targeted with a pitch. It’s quite possible that Detroit could see the Orioles in more meaningful games in October, and this win pointedly told the Birds that the Tigers have a taste for feathers.

4 replies on “Orioles may have dislodged the sleep from the eyes of the Tiger

  • Tim COlman

    Fun to read about our win– and love the wrap up prose– tasting feathers.

    Keep it up.


  • Ya, right.

    Good stuff … until the next day happened. Guess Tigers don’t eat birds like you thought!

  • SteveC

    1) A rather premature conclusion, considering Sunday’s performance.

    2) VMart sat out 2012 with a knee injury, not hip.

    3) Lose the Papa Grande hate. They brought him back because the other posers as closers were worse. This is a team effort. Bless or curse the team, but there is no point singling out individuals.

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