Offensive outburst lifts Tigers in finale
Ordonez, Jackson shine at the plate in victory
DETROIT -- Almost Mr. Perfect, Armando Galarraga, was awarded a brand new Chevrolet convertible for Wednesday's near-perfect outing during a pregame ceremony held on Thursday.
Chevrolet didn't announce it to the crowd, but they told the Tigers that they would also award a new car to anyone on the team that hit for the cycle in the rubber match of Detroit's three-game series against the Indians.
Magglio Ordonez almost made them back up their words. The Tigers right fielder was a single short of hitting for the cycle, as the Tigers defeated the Indians, 12-6, to take the series at Comerica Park.
Ordonez didn't even realize he had a shot at the feat until the sixth inning. His three-run home run in the seventh inning put him a base knock short of the cycle, but the Tigers fell two batters shy of giving him a chance to earn some new wheels.
"We just couldn't get Magglio up there that last time," Tigers manager Jim Leyland joked after the win.
Ordonez may not have received a new ride, but the Tigers' offense certainly got on a roll Thursday. The club recorded a season-high 10 extra-base hits, the most since recording 11 on May 6, 2007 at Kansas City.
Earlier in the homestand, a game like Thursday would likely have fallen in the loss column. The Tigers received a far from stellar performance from starting pitcher Rick Porcello and the defense committed a season-high tying four errors. It was a defensive and pitching performance that likely would have been a recipe for disaster earlier in the homestand with the offense unable to provide any support.
But not on Thursday.
The bats finally came to life and bailed out a mediocre pitching performance. On Wednesday, of course, Galarraga didn't need much help from his teammates. But in the team's previous two starts, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander were left out to dry by cold bats. The Tigers had only posted more than four runs in six of their last seven games entering Thursday.
Leading the way offensively were the expected candidates, Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera, who hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning to bust open what had been a one-run game. Cabrera's solo shot was his 16th of the season and puts the slugger in a three-way tie for tops in the Major Leagues. Eight of Cabrera's past 18 hits have gone for home runs, and he is the first player in the Majors to reach 50 RBIs this season.
Along with the expected bats, the two rookies in the lineup also came up in the clutch.
Hidden under Galarraga's near-perfect game on Wednesday night was an outstanding performance by center fielder Austin Jackson.
Most fans probably saw his over-the-shoulder, full-speed catch in the top of the ninth inning that kept the perfecto alive. But many probably didn't see that he also went 3-for-4 from the plate on Wednesday.
On Thursday afternoon, Jackson's bat wasn't as quiet. The rookie went 4-for-6 with a career-high three doubles. If that wasn't enough, Jackson also made another phenomenal grab in the second inning. The play was almost a mirror image of Wednesday's catch. Instead of tearing through left-center field and making the catch over his left shoulder, he sprinted to right-center and made the grab over his right shoulder.
"I think that was a little easier than it was yesterday," Jackson said. "I was positioned a lot better than I was yesterday. And it didn't mean as much as it did yesterday."
Rookie Brennan Boesch joined in offensively with a 3-for-4 performance with a triple and two runs scored.
It was the type of offensive game the team desperately needed. The Tigers went 3-5 in the homestand and other than Cabrera -- who went 13-for-27 this homestand -- struggled to come up with hitting in the clutch.
"We swung a hot bat today and the team did great," Boesch said. "Any time you have a game like today where the offense shows up and produces those kinds of runs, you carry that momentum in and ride that out."
Porcello struggled with his command early but didn't run into any serious trouble until the fourth inning. The young righty beaned the leadoff man and walked the next batter on five pitches. Then after allowing a base hit, the Tigers' defense committed back-to-back errors. The Indians ended up posting five runs in the inning to erase a four-run deficit and actually take a 6-5 lead.
"That one inning, it was a struggle," catcher Gerald Laird said. "It was nice to see him go out there and kind of go five-plus after giving up six runs, but it was one inning, a couple rough plays for him. That's part of the game. He did good enough to keep us in the game."
Porcello excited after 5 1/3 innings and received the no-decision. He saw the Indians score six runs under his watch, but only three were earned. With the no-decision, he maintains an undefeated record (4-0) against the Indians in his two-year career with the Tigers.
It was a topsy-turvy game that was close until the seventh inning when the Tigers posted five runs of their own. The offensive outpouring was a good way to get the ball rolling, as the club prepares for a six-game road trip.
"We knew we could hit," Laird said. "We've got a good lineup and we've got good pitching. We're going to have to win games like this, too. We're not always going to go out and put up zeroes, and today was a good game. They came back and challenged us, got the lead back, and we were able to come back and get the lead."
Although the Tigers' offense was a bright spot, the sportsmanship displayed before and after the game will likely be remembered more than what happened on the field on Thursday. And for Leyland, that's just fine.
"I couldn't be prouder of the Tigers fans today," Leyland said. "I'm proud to be the manager of this franchise and I'm proud to manage for these fans. They showed me a lot of class today and it was a hard thing to do. They are competitors in this town. They've had to be forever. To accept that was tough. But they did it like champions and I'm proud of them."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.