08/20/08 1:25 AM ET
Nine-run inning equals big win for Tigers
Joyce homers twice; Galarraga earns victory over Rangers
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Galarraga didn't try to prove to the Rangers that they made a mistake in trading him. That case had long since been proven. Instead, Galarraga pitched his normal game Tuesday before Joyce pounced on Rangers mistakes for two home runs and another three-run play to make a winner out of him.
It was the same steady, level performance as always from Galarraga, but it was the same sudden scoring outburst as the night before that put the Tigers on top. In the end, Detroit's 11-3 win at Rangers Ballpark was almost as much about hustle as it was about focus.
For Joyce and his fellow hitters, hustle proved huge. For Galarraga, it was all about the latter.
"This was like the same [as any other] start," Galarraga said afterward. "I'm not trying to change anything. I'm not trying to think too much. I didn't have any pressure. It's the same old thing."
It meant a little more than that. After all, this was the team for which Galarraga struggled to try to crack the big leagues, only to be sent to Detroit in a Minor League trade just before Spring Training. His performance all season has been enough to torment Texas for the move, and he said on Monday that if he had still been with the Rangers, he'd be having this kind of season at Double-A or Triple-A rather than getting a chance in the Majors.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland also had his comments Monday, saying it would be "the biggest mistake of his life" for Galarraga to pitch this game like he was trying to prove something more to the Rangers. On Tuesday, he saw the usual Galarraga form.
"I thought he had very good poise," Leyland said. "I thought he had concentration on the task at hand. I thought he tried to pitch to hitters with a game plan, and I thought he handled it very, very well."
Same old performance, just a slightly different reaction afterward.
"It's a little special," he said. "I'm not going to say no. It's special, because the other team traded me."
Galarraga didn't retire the side in order in any of his six innings, but limited his damage to singles and walks to take a 1-0 lead into the sixth before one big swing changed his game. Milton Bradley's one-out walk and Marlon Byrd's single put the go-ahead run on base to give Texas its first real threat of the night. Galarraga retired Gerald Laird for the second out and put Chris Davis in an 0-2 hole, but he hung a 1-2 slider to Davis.
"It looked like he tried to backdoor a slider that just flattened out and stayed up," Leyland said.
Galarraga was a teammate with Davis for a brief while last year at Double-A Frisco, where Davis homered 12 times in just 109 at-bats over 30 games. He knew what Davis could do with a mistake pitch, and the drive to left-center field made it a reality for a 3-1 Rangers lead.
"Yeah," Galarraga said, "it was a bad pitch. Not the right location."
That gave Rangers starter Vicente Padilla a chance to take out his frustrations on the Tigers for a bad loss earlier this season in Detroit. Three batters later, the Tigers had taken the game back, thanks to Joyce.
Leyland had recently talked with his rookie outfielder about the promise he saw in him as a prospect. Leyland also said that he wanted to see more "tenacity," as he put it. Joyce said that he could do that.
"He's a young player that obviously has some pop in his bat," Leyland said. "He's just going through the process, learning what it's about up here. You have some good days, and you have some bad days."
He had shown that in recent days, Leyland said. Still, tenacity had little to do with the bulk of his damage on this night. His fifth-inning solo homer down the right-field line had been the only run of the game until Davis' blast. With Detroit trailing, he came up in the seventh as the go-ahead run after Carlos Guillen's leadoff walk and Gary Sheffield's single.
Like Davis, Joyce pounced on a slider and hit the ball a long way. Unlike Davis, Joyce's shot went more towards right field than center, ending up on a 422-foot trip into the right-field upper deck to give Joyce his first multi-homer game as a Major Leaguer, not to mention his first home runs since July 21.
"I haven't really had a bunch of big home run games," Joyce said. "I never really considered myself a power hitter. I just try to hit line drives. Coming up through the Minors, you're taught to hit line drives and keep learning, keep progressing and getting better. I'm still learning."
Edgar Renteria's seventh homer of the year in the next at-bat knocked Padilla (12-7) out of the game, but the change only temporarily halted the onslaught. Joyce was the 12th batter of the inning when he came back up, this time with the bases loaded against Josh Rupe.
Joyce seemingly was jammed into the third out on a fly ball. However, left fielder Brandon Boggs had stopped en route to the ball, which fell in between him and center fielder Josh Hamilton while all three runners came around to score. Joyce, running out the fly ball, ended up on second.
"I was still a little frustrated that I popped it up," Joyce said. "I probably could've run a little harder, but I still ran it out. Things like that, even when you're frustrated and the game gets to you, that's still putting the effort in and running things out."
Galarraga (12-4) took over the Major League rookie wins lead over Braves hurler Jair Jurrjens, the subject of a well-critiqued Tigers trade from last fall. The long seventh inning helped end his night, but he had nothing more to prove.
"I've proven myself, that I can pitch in the big leagues," he said. "That's important for me. I got traded. I'm not the first one. I'm not the last one."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.