Blast living in the eastern time zone. For, because I went to bed at a reasonable hour, I missed an unreasonably good pitching matchup: Cliff Lee vs. Matt Cain, each of whom shut the other side out for nine innings. Those nine innings took only one hour and fifty-minutes, by the way.
The difference: Cliff Lee went on to do it for a tenth inning. And he needed only 102 pitches to do it. In completing the tenth inning, Lee was only the fourth guy to do it in the 21st century. Aaron Harang did it once. Mark Mulder did too. Roy Halladay did it twice, naturally. And now Lee.
But sadly it was not enough as the Giants got two more innings of shutout relief while Antonio Bastardo allowed a single, then had a base runner reach on an error and then surrendered a walkoff single to Melky Cabrera, ending the game.
I suppose one could do a half-empty, half-full thing here. The half-empty crowd has to ask how both of these offenses struggled so mightily. Even against a couple of aces, one would hope that hitters would see more pitches than they did (each side needed only 114 pitches to get through 11 innings). One would also have to seriously question Charlie Manuel’s decision to have Freddy Galvis bunt in the tenth inning and then send Jim Thome and John Mayberry to bat when contact was key (there was a runner on third, after all). A strikeout and a flyout ended the threat.
Since I have no vested interest in either team’s offense, however, I’m content to go with the half-full of a a pitching orgy. And, actually, that glass is overflowing, because based on the box score alone this looked awesome. I will spend a good bit of my morning watching the game on replay.
After 16 years in the majors, longtime Tigers DH Victor Martinez capped his career with one final start at Comerica Park. Although there are seven games remaining in the club’s regular season schedule, Martinez said he felt he owed it to the fans to record his final at-bat at home. He’ll still cheer the rest of the team on from the dugout when they hit the road for their last six-game stretch on Monday, though he’s not expected to slot into the lineup at any point during their back-to-back away series against the Twins and Brewers.
In order to commemorate the occasion, the Tigers arranged a pregame ceremony to celebrate the veteran infielder’s seven years with the team, during which they presented him with Topps baseball cards, a recliner, a pair of boots, and a saddle, among other honors. Martinez also put in a special request to play first base, a position he hadn’t manned in over two years.
The 39-year-old didn’t waste a single minute of his final start in the majors. He deftly handled an inning-ending out in the top of the first, then laced a rare infield single to short in his first and final at-bat of the afternoon, beating the throw to first and advancing Nicholas Castellanos to second base in order to set up the Tigers’ first run: a two-out RBI single from Niko Goodrum that brought Castellanos home to score.
“I think that at-bat was the perfect at-bat to describe my career,” Martinez told reporters after the Tigers wrapped a 5-4 win over the Royals. “I had to sweat it out. I had to sweat it out the whole way. I had to grind it. That was my whole career.”
Following the hit — and the standing ovation that greeted it — the switch-hitter was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Ronny Rodriguez, who subbed in at second base in the top of the second while Goodrum shifted from second to first base. Taking Saturday’s performance into account, Martinez polished off his big league career with a lifetime .295/.360/.455 batting line, 423 doubles, 246 home runs, 1,178 RBI, and 28.4 fWAR across 1,973 games and three separate stints for the Indians, Red Sox, and Tigers. His accomplishments at the plate have been decorated with five All-Star nominations, two Silver Slugger Awards, and the designated hitter-exclusive Edgar Martinez Award following a career-best campaign in 2014.