Bonderman earns first career victory in relief

Whoever thought before the season that Jeremy Bonderman would win a game for the Tigers in August probably also won the $448 million Powerball jackpot Wednesday night.

But there was Bonderman, now 30 and nearly three years removed from his last victory as a Tiger, pitching the 11th, 12th and 13th innings in a 4-4 game against the Cleveland Indians.

Bonderman (2-3) kept the Indians at bay long enough for his teammates to come through with two runs in the 14th on Prince Fielder’s two-RBI double.

Joaquin Benoit allowed a run but got his 14th save in 14 chances as the Tigers won their 11th straight game, 6-5.

It was Bonderman’s first career victory in relief.

“I was happy for Bondo,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating on the post-game show. “I thought he threw the ball well. I was pretty impressed.”

Bonderman tried to keep his emotions in check as he came out for his first appearance with the Tigers.

“It was more adrenaline, getting the call and knowing I was going in the game,” Bonderman told Keating. “Heart was racing a little bit but just had to go out there and pitch. That’s what I was really trying to do is not get caught up  in the moment and keep my nerves under control and still execute pitches.”

Bonderman threw just 27 pitches in his three innings, facing the minimum nine batters, allowing one hit and striking out three.

“I told him that it’s better to catch him and not to face him,” catcher Brayan Pena told Keating. “That’s how good he was today. We’re happy to have him. We’re happy to have a guy like him who knows the league, who’s been around this club and he knows what it takes to win. For him to go out there and give those innings for us, it was unbelievable. It was a well-deserved win for him but especially for the team.”

It was odd and yet familiar all at the same time.

Odd in that Bonderman spent his entire Tigers career as a starter and familiar in his No. 38 with the Olde English D.

Earlier this season, Bonderman was 1-3 with a 4.93 in seven starts with his hometown Seattle Mariners.

The Tigers had offered Bonderman a minor-league deal in the offseason but Bonderman opted to try to make his comeback at home. Then the Mariners designated him for assignment on July 8.

The Tigers signed Bonderman to that minor-league deal six days later and sent him to Triple-A Toledo with the idea that Bonderman could be effective as a reliever.

Bonderman appeared in seven games with the Mud Hens and did not allow a run or walk a batter in 9 2/3 innings.

It turns out home for Bonderman might be back where he started his major-league career, with the Tigers.

“It was fun,” Bonderman said. “It was really fin to get out there and actually feel kind of part of the team by playing a little bit. It was nice coming here because I know a lot of these guys and played with them and we have a great team. I’m just going to try to do my part to fit in.”

Helping the Tigers improve to 67-45, six games ahead of the Indians in the Central Division race, is a perfect way for Bonderman to fit in with his new/old club.