BOSTON — Well, now. Wasn’t that a nice little visit to Fenway Park? Anything else we can break on our way out?
Tigers win. Red Sox lose. In Boston. Did you hear that, America? RED SOX LOSE IN BOSTON. THE STREAK IS OVER. No doubt that will get more attention than Detroit scoring 18 runs in one game — as much as any American League team has scored this year.
Did I say 18 runs?
Yes. I did. The Tigers? They don’t score that in a week, do thay? Here is a synopsis of the game: SCRREECH!* percent$ . . . ayee!
That’s about it. I would tell you more, but I ran out of room on my scorecard after Chet Lemon got his third hit and knocked in his fifth run, or maybe his fifth hit and his third run, I can’t remember.
Offensive? They had 13 singles, four doubles, two home runs. What was the score after an hour? 14-0? I don’t want to say the Tigers were satisfied with their lead, but I did notice that in the first inning they were dashing around the bases and by the third they were jogging and by the fifth they were trotting and by the seventh they were yelling, “SWING, BATTER!” and that was when their own guys were up.
Not that you can blame them. Lou Whitaker, Pat Sheridan and Alan Trammell each batted in the first, second, third and fourth innings. That’s a lot of work. Even for baseball.
“It’s hard to keep your concentration after a while,” Trammell admitted when the Tigers finally finished victoriously, 18-6. “You find your mind wandering a bit.”
Yeah. Like maybe to the bus. By the ninth inning, Mike Heath was playing right field, Ray Knight was hitting clean-up, only the drunk and the lonely were left in the stands, and the Tigers had wrapped up the season finale between two top AL East contenders — even though, as big games go, this was kind of like Al’s Shoe Repair against Smithson Tool and Dye. No clemency for Clemens
May I say two words here?
What’s his story? The Tigers smashed him 11 days ago in Detroit — in the first game of these August summit meetings — and on Sunday, well, “smashed” would be a polite word for what the Tigers did. Ravaged? Pillaged? In lasting just 1 1/3 innings, Clemens made the fastest exit of his career. Joe Frazier lasted longer — as a singer.
“He’s never pitched well against us,” Sparky Anderson said afterward, nibbling on his pipe, “but what does that mean? I think he’s the best pitcher in either league.”
Well. Anyhow. If he’s the best, bring on the rest. The Tigers ate up Clemens as if he were chocolate coated — eight runs on eight hits — and this
after being blown out twice in the previous two games.
Which brings me to another point:
Beneath all the statistics and the standings is a very simple fact that I have observed about these Tigers over the last two seasons: they do not like to be shown up. They do not like young teams poking fun at their age. They do not like outside media asking over and over, “Who are these guys?” They will never say anything about it in the clubhouse. They will just go out and win a game they’re not supposed to win by something like, oh, say, 12 runs.
“This is the kind of team we are,” said Anderson, removing his pipe. “We could collapse, but the chances of it are less with us because we do not — under any circumstances — take losses home with us. We could lose 10 in a row; it wouldn’t affect us. We’d bounce back.”
I call that character. I truly believe it will decide the AL East.
But enough serious talk. Of humidity and humility
Let’s talk about the heat. It reached 103 degrees Sunday, and with the humidity, it felt as delightful as if you were standing directly behind a bus exhaust with your mouth open. My favorite part, however, came somewhere around the fourth inning, when they showed Al Kaline on the Boston TV. He was talking into the microphone with his shirt completely open and his chest and belly exposed and his tie hanging over his shoulers.
An unusual picture. But you could understand it. Trammell summed up the weather perfectly after the game: “It was nicer,” he said, “in Texas.”
This morning in Boston, however, it’s not the heat, it’s the humility. At least it should be. Consider what the Tigers accomplished in their eight games against the Sox this month: 1) They derailed the 19-of-20 Red Sox win streak by taking four straight in Detroit; 2) They proved good pitching can shut down the Boston bats; 3) They beat Clemens twice; 4) They killed the Fenway jinx; 5) They began tied for first in the AL East and emerged 3 1/2 games ahead.
“We have to be happy with what we did,” said Lemon. “We won five of these eight.” And in between they proved that very little — especially a young team that gets an enormous amount of media attention, considering that it has yet to sit alone in first place this year — is going to rattle them.
And that’s that. Seven weeks to go. The Red Sox will keep streaking, then stopping; the Tigers will play them one at a time, scoring one run, then 18, confounding the baseball geniuses. But if I were a betting man, I would not put much against them. After all, you saw what they did to Fenway Sunday.
See you at the finish line, Boston.
Here’s a towel. Clean up that mess.