Just when you thought Max Scherzer and the suddenly prolific offense would be the entire story of the Tigers’ 10-6 victory over the Oakland A’s, a former Tiger had to make sure he was part of the tale as well.
But before we get to Brandon Inge, the man Tigers fans love to hate, Scherzer’s outing requires some attention.
Scherzer followed up his excellent start against the Chicago White Sox (one run allowed in seven innings with no walks and nine strikeouts) with another good one in Oakland.
Scherzer allowed two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings while walking two and striking out another nine, improving to 2-3 with a 5.73 ERA. That may not sound spectacular but it’s a lot better than the 7.77 ERA he had three starts ago.
Plus, it showed that Scherzer was able to repeat the fix he made of the mechanical flaw he and pitching coach Jeff Jones found in his delivery.
It also marked the ninth straight quality start for a member of the Tigers’ rotation.
The sputtering offense came to life, sparked by Andy Dirks and Miguel Cabrera, each with four hits. Dirks drove in the game’s first run, a solo shot off Bartolo Colon in the first inning.
Dirks now leads the Tigers with a .383 average. He has three home runs and 11 RBIs.
“I feel pretty good at the plate right now,” Dirks told told FOX Sports Detroit’s Mickey York on the post-game show. “It comes and goes, it goes in phases but I’m just trying to stay focused as much as I can with every at-bat, every single pitch, trying to help my team win some games.”
Cabrera, who was 0-for-13 against the Seattle Mariners, had three RBIs after taking extra batting practice and finding that he had his hands too high at the plate.
“I figured out what I’m doing wrong, why I miss a lot of pitches, my swing was too long, I tried to shorten my swing, try to make better contact with the ball and good things happen,” Cabrera told York on the field after the game.
Colon proved to be just the tonic the Tigers’ hitters were looking for. Colon has not beaten the Tigers since April 13, 2003.
In the third inning, every Tiger reached base and scored except for Ryan Raburn, who is still struggling. The A’s saw their 2-1 lead (from Kila Ka’aihue’s two-run home run) turn into a 9-2 Tigers lead. Colon lasted just 2 1/3 innings.
“It was important for us,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland told York. “Hopefully it’ll loosen the guys up a bit. Hopefully we can get on a little bit of a roll, particularly offensively. Those guys that came out today and hit extra, they did pretty well today. It was nice to get some runs on the board.”
Octavio Dotel rebounded from a wildly blown save in his last outing to finish the seventh.
That’s when things got a little more interesting. Phil Coke allowed a couple of infield hits and a walk. Collin Balester, who had not pitched since April 29 in New York, came in to face Inge.
Inge, who had a walk-off grand slam two games ago, hit Balester’s fastball out to right field for another grand slam. Unbelievably, Inge is already third in RBIs for Oakland. The only other A’s player to hit two grand slams in three games was Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx in September of 1932.
Inge also had a defensive gem on the first play of the game, a hot shot off the bat of Austin Jackson. The two are good friends and both had smiles after the play.
Unfortunately, the Tigers needed to use both Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde in a non-save situation to finish the game, but Scherzer was good again, the offense came to life and Inge’s blast didn’t hurt his former team.
Now all the Tigers need is to put together two victories in a row for the first time since April 15-18 (one win at Chicago and a three-game sweep in Kansas City).
“You never know. We’ve got to come out tomorrow and swing the bats well again,” Dirks said. “One game, it doesn’t matter if you score one run and win or if you score 20 runs and win, you’ve got to be good for the next game. Whatever it takes to win ballgames, that’s what we’re trying to do.”