Top 25 games of the Tigers’ season

Torii Hunter's walkoff homer against the Oakland A's in September was one of the most dramatic wins of the 2013 season.

Torii Hunter’s walkoff homer against the Oakland A’s in late August was one of the most dramatic wins of the 2013 season.

Now that the Tigers are priming for the postseason, it’s a perfect time to take a look back at the regular season. Here are the top 25 games of the year, see how many you can remember.

April 1
Verlander untouched as Tigers delight Opening Day crowd

Kicking off the season at home against the Twins in  Minnesota, the Tigers got off to a good start at defending their American League pennant. Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter started the very first inning with singles, and Jackson scored on a grounder by Miguel Cabrera. A moment later, Prince Fielder laced a double to make it 2-0. A third run came across the plate in the 2nd on a single by Omar Infante, and that’s all Justin Verlander needed. The Tiger ace was given a short leash – he went just 5 innings – but he struck out 7 and did not allow a run. With Jose Valverde having not been signed in the off-season, it was Phil Coke who finished this game off with a save.

April 24
Papa Grande returns

Tiger Nation thought the demons had been exercised. Not so. Valverde returned just a few weeks into the season after signing a minor league deal and pitching his way back into shape in the minor leagues. Papa Grande came into the game protecting a two-run lead in the 9th and set down the Royals in order. Even so, somehow it was very, very nerve-wracking.

April 26
My name is TUI-AS-O-SOPO!

No one knew who the hell he was in spring training, let alone were they able to say his name. But a hot spring led to a solid start off Jim Leyland’s bench in April. On this Friday evening, Tuiasasopo banged out two hits and drove in five runs. In the third he drove in two with a single, then in the next inning, the long-haired right-handed slugger swatted a three-run homer to give the Tigers a 10-0 advantage. Oh, and Anibal Sanchez struck out 17 Braves’ batters to set a franchise record for a single game. Detroit pulled to within one game of first place.

May 4
Offense rolls in rout of Astros

In Detroit’s first trip to Houston with the Astros now a member of the AL, the Tigers rolled to a four-game sweep. In this, the third game of the series, the Tigers offense was firing on all cylinders. They scored in 8 of the 9 innings, pummeling a succession of ‘Stros pitchers. 21 hits, 15 of them singles, helped lead to 17 runs in a 17-2 rout. Hunter and Cabrera had four hits each, Miggy eating a three-run homer. Victor Martinez also hit a home run, and the 7th, 8th, and 9th hitters all had two hits. Every Tiger starter but one (Prince) scored at least one run. Ironically, little of it was really needed, because Max Scherzer toyed with the Houston lineup. Scherzer allowed a single to start the first inning, then he retired 17 batters in a row until surrendering another hit in the 6th. He improved to 4-0.

May 19
Miggy goes deep three times

As great as he is with a bat in his hands, few people felt that Cabrera could be better in 2013. But the way he started the season he acted as if he wanted to prove he could be. On this night in Arlington against the Rangers, in a game broadcast on ESPN TV, Miggy hit three home runs, each one more impressive than the last. In all, Cabrera was on base five times, adding a single and an intentional walk. His third homer, a solo blast in the 8th, went out deep to center field. It drew more than a fair share of “We’re not worthy” sort of responses. The performance pushed Cabrera’s average to .387. Through 42 games, the Tiger star had 47 RBI and 11 home runs as he made a push for a possible second straight triple crown.

May 21
Scherzer dominates Indians in Cleveland

In this win, Mad Max retired the last 22 straight, including fanning the last 4 batters in the 7th and 8th. He gave up just 2 hits in 8 innings against the Indians to improve to 6-0. The win inched the Tigs within 1 1/2 of the Indians in the AL Central.

May 23
Red-hot Cabrera homers again in victory over Twins

Just four days after his 3-homer outburst against Texas, Cabrera hit a homer in his fourth straight game. The Tigers won this game against the Twins on a single by Fielder in the 8th.

May 24
Sanchez nearly no-hits Twins, vaults Tigs into 1st place

On this night in front of a crowd of 39,789 at Comerica Park, Anibal Sanchez was masterful, almost historically so. Facing the Twins, Sanchez walked the leadoff batter in the 1st inning, allowed a second-inning walk, but then retired 17 in a row (8 by strikeout). He entered the 9th needing just three outs to record his second no-hitter (he tossed one for the Marlins). After fanning Jamey Carroll, Sanchez faced Joe Mauer, the three-time batting champion. Mauer hit a single to center field to break up the no-hit bid. Sanchez accepted a standing ovation and then he struck out the final two batters. He finished with a one-hitter and moved the Tigers into first place. Detroit would spend all but two days in first place from that point on.

June 1
Tigers pound the O’s as Miggy hits a grand slam

This was a clash between Cabrera and Baltimore’s slugger (and MVP candidate) Chris Davis. Miggy belted a  home run, one of five the Tigers had in a 10-3 rout at Camden Yards. Verlander won his 7th game.

June 9
Alvarez shines in big league debut and defeats the Indians

In a really big series against the Indians at Comerica Park, rookie Jose Alvarez was tapped to make the start to replace the injured Sanchez. It was the first start not made by one of the regular members of Leyland’s rotation. A rookie, Alvarez looked very poised, keeping the Tribe hitless until two were out in the 5th. That’s when former Tiger Ryan Raburn hit a home run to break up the no-hitter and the shutout. Alvarez pitched six full innings and led the Tigers to a three-game sweep of Cleveland, improving Detroit’s lead over the Indians to 5 1/2 games.

June 20
Jhonny Whalkoff!

In the middle of a 10-game homestand in which the Tigers would struggle to a 3-7 record, this was a big win. Alvarez and Boston’s John Lackey battled each other in a low-scoring game, but the Red Sox went to their bullpen and were nursing a 3-2 lead as they entered the bottom of the 9th. Closer Andrew Bailey walked Victor Martinez to open the 9th, and Jhonny Peralta followed with a home run on a 1-2 pitch, sending the ball over the left field wall and sending the crowd of more than 36,000 into a frenzy for walkoff celebration.

July 3
Scherzer improves to 13-0 as Tigs bounce Blue Jays

Scherzer did what he’d been doing all season: winning, winning, winning. He went 6 1/3, scattering 7 hits and fanning 8 as the Tigers beat the Blue Jays in Toronto, 6-2. His catcher, Alex Avila, hit a three-run homer in the 2nd that was all Scherzer needed. At 13-0, Scherzer became the first Tiger pitcher to start the season with that many wins while not having lost a decision.

July 8
Extra-inning win pads Tigs lead over the Tribe

In the finale of a four-game series in Cleveland, the Tigers and Indians battled in a pitcher’s duel, going into extra innings. Scherzer started and pitched very well to keep the game tied. In relief, Bruce Rondon, Drew Smyly, and Joaquin Benoit kept the Indians off the board, and finally in the 10th, Victor Martinez crushed a double to deep center field that scored Cabrera and Fielder to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead, which held up for the victory. Detroit took three of four and stretched their lead to 3 1/2 games.

July 14
Another near no-no for Verlander in win over Rangers

Verlander has two no-hitters to his credit, and he’s had about 5 or 6 other near misses. On this clear Sunday at Comerica, JV took Tiger fans on a no-no attempt ride again. Staked to a five-run lead, Verlander went into the 7th with a no-no intact. He wasn’t overpowering on this day, he struck out only three batters, but he had the visiting Rangers off balance. With two outs in the 7th, Mitch Moreland doubled to right-center to break up Justin’s bid. The Tigers won the game, 5-0.

August 4
Tigers overcome blown save to beat ChiSox for 8th straight win

Facing the White Sox in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a game at Comerica Park, the Tigers turned victory into near defeat and then scratched back for victory. In the 7th, Detroit rallied for two runs to take a 2-1 lead, which the still held when Drew Smyly started the 9th inning. But Paul Konerko hit a home run to silence the Comerica crowd and tie the game. Jose Veras came in and retired the Sox, but the Tigers couldn’t score in the bottom of the 9th. Each team had runners in the next two innings, but the game was still tied entering the bottom of the 12th. A Cabrera single (he was pinch-hitting), a sac bunt by Austin Jackson, and a single by Torii Hunter gave the Tigs the winning run in walkoff fashion. It gave Detroit their third straight series sweep and 8th victory in a row. Despite this, their division lead remained 3 games, because Cleveland was also on a hot streak.

August 5
The annual beat down of Chris Perez

The first game of a crucial four-game series in Cleveland between the top two teams in the AL Central. The Tiger hit machine was silent for  more than 7 innings against Corey Kubler, while Anibal Sanchez allowed two runs in a good start of his own. The Tribe led 2-0 in the top of the 9th inning, and called on their bombastic closer Chris Perez. But Perez never retired a batter, as the Tigers pounced on him: a double down the left field line by Fielder, a single by Martinez, and a walk to Andy Dirks. Avila came up with two runners on and launched a 1-0 pitch to the opposite field, stunning the Indians and giving the Tigers a 4-2 lead. Avila showed rare emotion as he rounded the bases, pumped to have given his club a lead in the big game. Perez was yanked from the game, exactly one year to the day from when he blew another save against the Tigers when Cabrera hit a homer off him. Joaquin Benoit shut down the Indians to seal the dramatic victory.

August 7
Clutch Miggy

In the third game of their four-game series against the Indians in Cleveland, the Tigers were down 3-2 in the 8th when Torii Hunter hit a soft single to center. The Indians tried to pitch carefully to Cabrera, but they didn’t pitch carefully enough, and Miggy hit a two-run homer to the opposite field to give the Tigers the lead. Cleveland tied it in their half of the 8th, but in the 14th, Prince Fielder delivered a clutch two-run double that proved to be the winning hit as Detroit won 6-5.

August 8
Sweeping away the Indians

This was really when Cleveland lost the division title. In the last game of a four-game series in Cleveland, the Tigers punished the Tribe, 10-3 to sweep and earn their 12th straight win. Scherzer improved to 17-1, and Detroit’s first five batters had nine hits and drove in nine runs. The win pushed the Tiger lead over the Indians to 7 games.

August 9
Cabrera pounds Rivera pitch for home run in 9th at Yankee Stadium

In one of the most dramatic games of the season, Cabrera stunned the Yankees and the New York crowd when he hit a monstrous home run off Mariano Rivera in the top of the 9th inning. His two-run shot with two outs came one pitch after he looked terrible trying to get around on a Rivera cut fastball, fouling the pitch off his ankle. Cabrera swatted a low fastball to straightaway center field to knot the game at 3-3. Detroit lost the game in 10 innings, but the at-bat by Cabrera against Rivera will go down as one of the most amazing in recent Tigers history. The following day, Miggy hit another homer against the Yanks.

August 12
Eye popper! Iglesias makes stunning play in the field

In a game in Chicago against the White Sox, catcher Josh Phegley hit a broken-bat grounder that seemed certain to end up as an infield single, but Jose Iglesias had different plans. He charged the ball, scooped it and fired it to first in one motion, getting Phegley for the out. Watch it in this clip:

August 29
Torii stuns A’s

For three days, the Oakland A’s had beat down the Tigers with an aggressive offensive approach. The A’s scored 28 runs in the first three games of the four-game series, beating Verlander and Doug Fister in the last two games. On Thursday afternoon, it appeared as if the scrappy A’s would sweep the Tigers. They built a 6-1 lead. Entering the last of the 9th, the Tigers trailed 6-3. A leadoff walk seemed like it would be wasted after the A’s got two outs. But Fielder walked and VMart singled to make the score, 6-4. Torii Hunter was facing Oakland closer Grant Balfour, with the A’s still one out away from sweeping the Tigs at Comerica Park. But on a 1-1 count, Hunter sent a fastball into the bullpen beyond the left field wall, giving Detroit a 7-6 walkoff win. It was a quick reversal of fortune, one that few could have seen coming. It kept the A’s from sweeping the Tigers, and helped propel Detroit into a three-game series against the Indians, where they won 2 of 3.

September 10
Slick Rick goes the distance

In his 147 starts, Rick Porcello had never pitched a complete game, until this night in the Windy City. Porcello was economical – he used just 105 pitches in a 9-1 victory over the White Sox.

September 20
Scherzer wins his 20th

After four failed attempts to win his 20th game, Scherzer finally got it as the Tigers defeated the White Sox 12-5.

September 21
Six runs in 9th to tie the White Sox

Not just the most unlikely comeback win of the ’13 season, but one of the most unlikely in franchise history. The Tigers looked flat as they fell behind late in the game to the White Sox 6-0. Chicago scored 2 in the 7th, 1 in the 8th, and 3 in the 9th. In the bottom of the inning, Detroit’s offense looked like a new bunch of guys. A triple, single, single, and a double started the inning and made the score 6-2. Andy Dirks entered the game as a pinch-hitter and wasted no time, swinging at the first pitch he saw from Chicago reliever Nate Jones. The baseball was launched into the right field bleachers, sending Comerica Park into hysterics. But the Tigers were still trailing by a run. Omar Infante walked, and a sac bunt and two walks later, Hunter scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly. In the 12th, Infante lined a base hit off the glove of the pitcher to score Don Kelly and give the Tigers a 7-6 win. It was the second time in franchise history (the other happened in 1947)  that the team rallied from a six-run deficit in the 9th inning.

September 25
Max and the bullpen shut down the Twins to clinch third straight division title

It was fitting that Mad Max was on the mound in the game that clinched the AL Central for the Tigers. Scherzer was the best Tiger pitcher in 2013, and in this, his 21st win, he was dominating. Unfortunately, the Detroit offense struggled and only managed one run (in the first inning). But Scherzer didn’t need any more than that, going 7 while allowing 2 hits and striking out 10 Twins. Three Tiger relievers finished the game off, and when Benoit struck out Josh Willingham, the Tigers had their third straight division title.

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He was formerly the Web Producer for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @twebman or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.