Game 118 // Tenth Inning, Detroit // Misery in Tigertown

 BOTTOM OF THE TENTH: TIGERS 10 – 10 PIRATES

 

Tigers fans. You alright? All is wrong in Tigertown, but—you all there?

Like when someone asks you “How are you—but how are you really?” And you say you’re fine, because you are fine, and they’re being nosy and misguided, and you’re really definitely fine. Except when you’re a Tiger fan, and you’re not fine. Very far from fine, indeed. When you’re braving 35-degree chill in a half-empty ballpark with a half-baked ballclub on the field, but then they just might win this one, and you won’t leave early, you’ll stay four whole extra innings, and then they don’t, and nothing is fine. Nothing at all. Not right now.

The Justin Verlander era is over. Gone is J.D. Martinez. Gone is Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler. Long gone are Scherzer and Porcello and Sanchez and Price.

But it’s Opening Day, the newspapers say. It’s time to come out to Comerica, the Tigers’ Twitter says. Come together for the team, your city says, for that annual holiday event, at winter’s end—anesthetized before the pain of a lost season sets in for real. 

Opening Day, the day after a rainout.

 

 

Opening Day, with at least a little to root for. It’s been 50 years since 1968, when the Tigers won 103 games and beat Bob Gibson in Game Seven of the World Series. When they brought the trophy back home to Detroit. 50 years since then, and the man who beat Gibson himself is on hand to throw out the first pitch—the great Mickey Lolich, throwing from 30 feet to his old battery mate, Jim Price.

It’s a good day, after all. A smile-making day.

 

 

Maybe. Maybe even a big smile. Maybe.

The Tigers take a 6-4 lead midway through the game. Then they fall behind, but then they’re not. They give  up four in the 9th, then score four in response.

10-10 going into the 10th inning.

And then, the smiles, the excitement, the crowd on their feet and everyone predicting a win.

Nick Castellanos on second base, Jacoby Jones at the plate. Two out A line drive hit to left field, taking a short hop in front of the left-fielder. Castellanos goes for it—rounding third and charging home. The ball flies behind him, drawing even for a moment, and then on ahead—into Cervelli’s glove, a yard wide of the plate. Castellanos slides. Cervelli dives over and swipes a tag. The umpire signals.

SAFE.

Joy in Tigertown. A winning team, if only for a day. An ugly opener flipped into a storybook comeback. A good minute of celebration. The dugout comes out, the fans jump around, the TV guys ready their sign-off with this one rare day of Detroit Tiger happiness.

And then, a bugle sounds. Its echo rebounds off the upper decks. A herald leaps out of the Pirates’ dugout, up onto Clint Hurdle’s shoulders.

He calls out, everyone turning to look at him, glaring, like a nerd who wriggled his way out of a high school locker. He better not, they all think. He better god damn not.

Check the replay! he calls out. We challenge! 

Hands smacking onto foreheads across a quarter-filled stadium.

“No…. no…. no…..”

The umpires don their headsets. They stand there, and stand there. A good three minutes go by, with no verdict.

Then, it comes. The foreheads sink back into the hands, orange and blue mittens covering every last Tiger fan’s face.

 

 

You delete the video you had queued up. You scroll around Tigers Twitter for the reaction. You observe, as the Eskimos have 50 words for “snow”, the Detroit sports fan’s 50 variations of “f**k!”.

You tune in for the last few innings, as the 11th goes by, the 12th. And then, the 13th, when Gregory Polanco sends a three-run blast ten rows deep into deep right-center. Tigertown sunk—perhaps for another decade. It’s not looking good folks. It’s not. But hey, 50 years ago, in another millennium, the Tigers were on top.

1968 wasn’t so long ago, right? Right?

 

 

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