Detroit-Minnesota: Tigers Find Way to Hold on to Sizable Lead

Matt SCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2009

DETROIT - JULY 8:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Cleveland Indians on July 8, 2008 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

We've seen this scenario seemingly countless times this season. The Tigers jump out to a sizable lead and struggle to hang on as the game comes to a close, especially against the Twins.

These pesky Twins never give up—they find ways to scratch out runs and make you sweat until you undoubtedly break. They broke the Tigers in extra innings in the day portion of the double header, and they attempted to do the same in the nightcap.
I was breathing easy after the fifth inning. The Tigers had mounted a five run lead and the ace of the staff was on the mound.
Five runs was an explosion for this anemic offense. They wouldn't let that slip away. Would they?
The Twins answered back with two runs in the sixth inning and two more in the eighth. Groans could not be suppressed; the anxiety was palpable. The thought ran through my head, "not again, please, not now, not tonight."
The Tigers tacked on one insurance run, courtesy of a Curtis Granderson homerun—a temporary relief to the ever-increasing anxiety. But the relief was in no way permanent, and it quickly looked like the wheels might still fall off.
The end seemed to be moving inevitably toward a Tigers loss.
Fernando Rodney came in to shut the door and gave up a hit on a 0-2 count to Delmon Young. An infield hit, to be precise, and one that glanced off of the glove of Placido Polanco that should have been turned into an out.
The stars and planets began to align for the Twins.
Two outs later, the light hitting Nick Punto flipped a routine fly ball to deep center field. Curtis took one step in, then froze, then bolted toward the warning track, and the ball sailed over his head for a double.
One run came in and the tying run stood on second base.
I held my hands on my head in disbelief. Fernando Rodney should have recorded four outs already and yet the game was in doubt.
But it's a good thing that stars and planets have no bearing on the outcome of baseball games, or really anything, save astronomy.
Denard Span, Mr. Tiger Killer himself, hit an easy fly ball to left field and the Tigers shook hands.
I was flooded with relief. I pounded fists with a friend. I pounded fists with my wife. I even pounded fists with my seven-week-old daughter (though she didn't know what was going on and she doesn't know how to make a fist).
The Tigers found a way to hang on, but more importantly, they found a way avoid full-blown panic mode.
The playoffs seem so close and yet so far away. But when I stop to think about it, I realize that this is playoff baseball right now.
Win and you're in. Lose and you go (or stay) home.
It's getting dark, cold, rainy, and the leaves are falling off the trees. This is when baseball gets fun.
This is why baseball is fun.
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