Tigers score 19 in rout of Rangers
Eleven-run sixth inning highlights big night at the plate
DETROIT -- If this is what the Tigers can do with Curtis Granderson back in the lineup, look out.
They can't do this every day, of course. One every election year seems to be their current rate.
Four years ago on this night, the Tigers put up an 11-run sixth inning at Comerica Park on their way to a runaway victory. The victim was different on Wednesday, this time a Rangers bullpen struggling to throw strikes. Otherwise, the setting was the same.
The 19-6 final was the exact same score from the last time the Tigers scored this many runs, also against the Rangers on Aug. 8, 2001. With all those numbers, it's hard to believe this was a game the Tigers easily could've lost.
It speaks to the value of the double-play ground ball that lefty Clay Rapada induced in the fourth inning of a one-run game.
"We could've gotten beat bad," manager Jim Leyland said.
It also says plenty about the mindset of this club staring at a 5-0 deficit after an inning and a half.
"In the back of your mind, you know that [this offense is] capable of that," Rapada said.
With Granderson back in the lineup, it feels a little more capable. But it was an effort throughout the lineup that turned this game from a tit-for-tat scoring escapade into an outright rout.
Fifteen batters stepped to the plate in the 11-run sixth. Nine of them reached base consecutively between Ivan Rodriguez's sacrifice bunt and Carlos Guillen's sacrifice fly, and all nine of those hitters scored. Granderson picked up his first and second hits of the season, both ground balls through the right side. Guillen drove in three runs between his double and his sac fly. Ramon Santiago reached base safely twice that inning without a hit thanks to a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Miguel Cabrera broke the game open with a three-run home run, his second homer in as many nights and fifth on the season, and still looked flustered when he flew out to finally end the inning.
It was an exhibition of a Rangers staff struggling, for sure, but it was also a display of a lineup that wasn't going to make it any easier on them.
"I think the big thing was a lot of guys went up there to not give away at-bats," Granderson said. "Not be satisfied with scoring three or four runs. Guys went up there and said, 'Hey, this is my at-bat. I want to win my at-bat.' Sure enough, guy after guy after guy kept doing that. And that's what you've got to do. The good hitters throughout a season, whatever the situation is, take advantage of that at-bat and try to win those at-bats."
Granderson, making his first start of the season after missing more than three weeks with a fractured bone in his right middle finger, reached base twice in that inning and four times on the night en route to three runs scored. Even his sore legs felt fine as he worked his way through a 3 1/2-hour contest. He was one of four walks in the seventh that led to the 19th and final run, the final blemish on a rough night for Rangers pitching that saw the Tigers walk 10 times for the first time since that aforementioned game four years ago.
"I think tonight was a combination of some real good hitting and some guys making some bad pitches," Leyland said. "But the big thing was the walks."
Up until that point, the Tigers had been nicking and cutting Rangers pitching with smaller hits. Though Detroit put up five runs in the second inning and single runs in the two innings after that, Jacque Jones' third-inning solo homer was the Tigers' only extra-base hit through the first five innings.
Given the struggles of starting pitcher Kenny Rogers, they needed all those early runs.
Lost amidst all the scoring was a game that could've gotten out of hand on the other side. Rogers gave up two runs in the opening inning, three more in the second and left after three walks in a four-batter span brought in another run in the fourth.
With switch-hitting cleanup man Milton Bradley up and the bases still loaded, in came Rapada, who has fallen behind hitters at times in his brief Tiger tenure. He put Bradley in an 0-2 hole before a ground ball to short led to the inning-ending double play. He stayed on to retire the side in order in the fifth. Tigers relievers retired 16 of the 18 batters they faced.
"That'll get lost in the shuffle of this whole game," Leyland said. "What Rapada did, that was huge. If [Bradley] hits a gapper there, who knows? We might get beat."
Rapada, of course, referred to the offense he has behind him to speak to his mindset.
"When you're not with an offensive power team, you have to battle, pick and choose, get a few runs here and there," Rapada said. "With this team, we're able to explode for 10 runs in an inning. As pitchers, all we want to do is battle, try to put zeros on the board, and contain the damage if not."
It took them four years to put up an 11-run inning. Time will tell if this year's team has any more in them.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.