Tigers earn sweep behind Galarraga
Rookie hurls six perfect frames vs. Royals as fortunes turn
KANSAS CITY -- One dream ended with a swing of the bat from David DeJesus in the seventh inning. But that was just one, the one where Armando Galarraga threw a perfect game.
Detroit still had plenty to marvel at. Galarraga pitched a gem in Wednesday's 7-1 victory, leading the Tigers to a sweep over the Royals. Now the first-place White Sox lie ahead this weekend at Comerica Park, and not too far ahead in the standings. The Tigers are only 5 1/2 games back.
The first game of that series comes Friday. Wednesday belonged to Galarraga.
"That was the best I've ever seen him," manager Jim Leyland said.
The Tigers traded Michael Hernandez to the Rangers for Galarraga in early February. He had just three games of big league experience and an ERA of 6.23. In an offseason where Detroit acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, his addition hardly registered.
And with good reason -- Galarraga didn't even make it past the first cut in Spring Training.
Yet here he was on Wednesday, cruising into the seventh inning, attempting to do what only 17 pitchers have ever done, throw a perfect game.
The first six innings were simple, and contained few close calls. Only two balls left the infield. It was all Galarraga. He needed just 64 pitches, 43 strikes. He mainly used his fastball, sinker and slider and rarely mixed in a changeup.
Catcher Brandon Inge was impressed at how often he used the slider. Galarraga threw it during crucial counts like 2-1 or 3-2, something Inge remarked is very risky.
Then again, Galarraga didn't mind taking risks on Wednesday. He knew he had the opportunity for a perfect game. Royals fans shouted at him when he got into the dugout from the fourth inning on. Their cheers -- and jeers -- didn't make him too nervous.
|"That was the best I've ever seen him."|
|-- Jim Leyland|
DeJesus led off the seventh inning, and worked Galarraga to a full count. Galarraga threw an inside fastball, and DeJesus ripped it into right field for the first hit. Leyland thought Galarraga might've lost some of his focus after that hit, and he ended up allowing two more plus a walk. DeJesus later scored on a Jose Guillen single, ending the shutout.
Leyland pulled Galarraga after that inning. He went seven, allowing just three hits and that one run. Galarraga called it one of his best outings, comparing it to the near complete game he pitched in late May against the Angels.
"He feels like he belongs here," Leyland said. "He has a good presence about him. Today he was very calm. He's done very well for us. I expect him to do well."
While Galarraga dazzled, the offense again tore into Kansas City pitching. The Tigers jumped starter Zack Greinke for five runs in the first three innings. Detroit notched 43 hits and 33 runs in the three-game set with the Royals.
Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez led the way. Cabrera finished the series with a .500 average and 10 RBIs. Ordonez had two RBIs on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"When Magglio and Cabrera lock in," Leyland said, "they can be RBI machines."
It really can't get a whole lot better for the Tigers at this point, considering where they were in early June. That 12 games under .500 record looks like ancient history now. Detroit has played some of the best ball of the season while sweeping a team that won six in a row against them in April and May.
This hot streak is coming at the right time, too, as a series with Chicago looms. Detroit wants to make the playoffs, and though it's early, these games with the White Sox could reveal whether the Tigers are truly ready to make a run.
"This weekend is going to be exciting," Ordonez said. "This is the series the players are looking forward to."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.