Notes: Comerica packing them in
Leyland proud to be part of resurgence, subsequent support
DETROIT -- Consider this the equivalent of the old famous "Field of Dreams" line, "If you build it, they will come."In the case of the Tigers, "If you play good baseball, they will come." Saturday's game at Comerica Park was the eighth straight sellout, which set a record for consecutive sellouts at the eight-year-old stadium. The previous mark came with seven straight sellouts from Aug. 18-24 last year. There was also a bit more history with the announced crowd of 44,193 on Saturday. It was the second-largest crowd at Comerica, and the largest for a non-Opening Day game. "I knew if we gave them something to cheer for, I knew they'd come out," manager Jim Leyland said. "Not quite to this extent, to be honest with you. If we were getting 25-30,000 a night, I'd be happy. I thought that'd be reasonable." Attendance had dwindled for the Tigers over the past few years, including an average of 16,892 fans at Comerica during the 2003 season. Those days seem long in the past with the resurgence of the Tigers, and the fans have certainly taken notice. The Tigers haven't had a crowd of less than 30,000 since late May in a game against the Angels. They have sold out the 41,070-capacity stadium in 12 of the 16 games since that day.
"I know that this is one of the best baseball cities in the nation, there's no doubt about that," Leyland said.The crowds are great for Leyland; he admitted he gets goosebumps anytime a capacity crowd gives the team a standing ovation in the ninth inning, but he is most proud of the fact that the Tigers have appeared to lay a foundation that will make them a successful franchise for the long term. "It's got a chance to be good for a while, long after I'm gone," Leyland said "That's what I'm happiest about. The Tigers are back on the map, and hopefully I was a small part of that. "We got our foot in the door and we got a chance, if we don't do dumb things. And [general manager] Dave Dombrowski doesn't do dumb things, so we've got a chance to be good for a while." Game of inches: One feel-good Minor League callup story had a happy ending in Friday night's game, while another's didn't quite pan out. Ryan Raburn was called up prior to the opener against the Red Sox and delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning in his first at-bat. It wasn't Raburn's first career hit, but it was his first since 2004, when he was a late-season callup. Furthering Raburn's backstory is his continued return from an all-terrain vehicle accident back in 2002. One orthopedic doctor Raburn saw wasn't sure if he would ever be able to play baseball again. He dislocated his hip and broke his leg and collarbone in the accident. Raburn said the pain was so bad in his hip, he didn't even realize he had broken his leg and collarbone until months afterward. He stayed just one night in the hospital and never received treatment for the leg or collarbone. "I still got a little knot [in the collarbone], you can still see where it's broke," Raburn said. "The leg ended up healing back. One of the bones is a little off, but it doesn't cause me any problems anymore." Raburn's hit came on a shallow fly ball in almost the exact same spot that the Red Sox's Jeff Bailey -- who was making his first Major League appearance after 11 years in the Minors -- had hit his earlier in the game. Bailey's ball was not only caught, but Curtis Granderson threw out Wily Mo Pena, who was trying to score from third base on the play. "Mine just happened to fall in," Raburn said. "I guess I had a little bit more luck last night." Near miss: Bailey's shallow fly had all the makings of a big collision.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Pena came barreling down the third-base line and attempted to slide under the tag of catcher Mike Rabelo rather than run him over. Rabelo tagged him out on a close play at home.So was Rabelo glad that Pena slid? "Heck yeah. Nobody wants a collision. It's not like he's a second baseman," Rabelo said of Pena, who outweighs him by 45 pounds. Special delivery: Most players have a picture of their children or spouse posted on their locker in the Tigers clubhouse. Jason Grilli's picture is probably the smallest of them all, though. Grilli proudly has on display a picture of a recent ultrasound his wife, Danielle, took of the couple's first child. "We're gonna go down to Orlando for the All-Star break, and she's gonna stay put the rest of July, so I'm sure she'll do a little nesting," Grilli said. The couple resides in Orlando, Fla., during the offseason and, as luck would have it, the expected due date is Feb. 11, 2008. That means the child should be born about the same time Grilli has to report to Spring Training camp in nearby Lakeland, Fla., just about a 30-minute drive from Orlando. "It will give me reason to hurry up and get my work done and hurry home and shoot home and spend the rest of the afternoon, day, as much time as I can with the baby and take care of mommy," Grilli said. The Grillis have yet to determine if the child is a boy or girl, but they plan to find out when Danielle gets further along in the pregnancy. "My wife is terrible with surprises," Grilli said. Up next: Dice-K Mania descends upon Detroit for the first time on Sunday afternoon. Daisuke Matsuzaka (10-5, 3.53 ERA) makes his first career start at Comerica Park at 1:05 p.m. ET in both teams' final game before Tuesday's All-Star Game. Nate Robertson (4-6, 4.86) will get the start opposite Matsuzaka.
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.