Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tigers Return to Series 22 Years Later

On the anniversary of their 1984 World Series-clinching victory Maggs Ordonez leads the Tigers back to the promised land.

Tigers 6, A's 3
HRs:OAK: Payton; DET: Ordonez (2)
Tigers win series, 4-games to-none

Magglio Ordonez happened, that's what. He happened to hit a leadoff home run in the 6th of Danny Haren that tied the score at 3, and then he happened to become a postseason hero when he nailed a 3-run bomb off of Oakland closer Huston Street with 2 outs in the 9th inning to propel Detroit to their first World Series since 1984; that magical year the Tigers broke out to a 35-5 start en route to a Series victory over the Padres.

This year's edition of the Tigers has had that same kind of magical aura around them all season, save for the final month when the long grind, and the hot Twins, caught up to a team that was 40 games over .500 at one point (76-36 on Aug. 7th.) Despite tanking in the final weekend,getting swept by the Royals which forced them into the Wild Card against the Stankees, the Tigers never gave up or or caved in- a direct extension of their take-no-prisoners manager, Jim Leyland. To a man these Tiger players have credited Leyland with changing the culture of losing in Motown and being accountable for the actions between the white lines. It's freakin' amazing when you remember that THIS TEAM LOST 119 GAMES JUST 3 YEARS AGO.

The game stared off ominously for Detroit as Oakland starter Haren had his way with the Tiger hitters for the first 4 innings, allowing only 2 hits while striking out 7. Plus the A's offense decided to make an early appearance, courtesy of RBI doubles by Milton Bradley (7-14 in the series while gutting it out with a wounded hammy) and Eric Chavez. When Jay Payton hit a one-out solo shot off of shaky Tiger starter Jeremy Bonderman (6.2, 6H, 3R) to push it to 3-0 in the 4th, there weren't worries on the faces of the Tiger faithful, but the small seed of "uh-oh, we might have to go back to Oakland" could be found stirring in their minds.

But that doubt was quickly put to rest when the Tigers pounced on Haren for 2 runs in the 5th. Sparkplug Brandon Inge led off by forcing an error by the Gold Glove king Chavez. Granderson $ Monroe (how clutch are those 2) then hit back to back doubles to make it 3-2, and if it weren't for Monroe getting doubled off second on a lineout by ALCS MVP Placido Polanco ( 9-17, .529) the Tigers might have tied it in that inning.

As it was they only had to wait until the first batter of the next inning, when Maggs popped on into the rightfield bleachers for a game-tying, momentum-swinging homer that must have left Oakland & their fans thinking "what do we have to do to kill these beasts?!"

The answer, obviously, is nothing, because these cats don't just have 9 lives, they may have 99 lives. They just keep comin at ya until there's nothing left but a carcass, and that's all that was left of the A's after the devastating 9th inning.

Things started out innocently enough when Marcus Thames & Grandy both flew out off of A's closer Huston Street. But then something happened: Craig Monroe reached on a single. "Rally time" I said to my wife, who was ignoring me as usual when it comes to these things. But then another thing happened: a single by MVPolanco. Two on and tow out. "Rally time" I said a little louder. And next came the moment every kid, player, and fan dreams of. Ordonez stepped to the plate with a chance to put his team in the World Series with one swing of the bat. And with one swing of the bat, he crushed the offering from Street deep into the rightfield seats and even deeper into Tiger & baseball lore: it was only the 8th time an LCS has been decided by a walk-off home run. We won't mention when the last time was (ahemAaron Boone.)
"You're right, I am the man!"
So the Tigers will celebrate like it's 1984 for a few days while the NLCS plays out. That Tiger team had heroes like Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson and manager Sparky Anderson. But this squad has heroes like Ordonez, Monroe, Polanco, Grandy, Bonderman, Verlander, Zumaya, and manager of the Year shoo-in Jim Leyland, who with another series win will become only the 3nd manager to win a Series in both leagues. The first: Sparky.

Karma, baby, karma. And the Tigers got it in spades.

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