In a lot of ways, this was the best game of the 2006 World Series. You had the Tigers, who were down 2-1 in the series, come out hitting the ball and taking an early three-run lead. Then you saw the Cardinals come back and take the lead—only to have the Tigers tie it up, then give up the lead again. In the first three games, the team that was leading after the fourth inning ended up winning every game.
Sean Casey put the Tigers in front 1-0 with a solo home run in the second inning off of Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan, and then Casey struck again in the third with an RBI single. Ivan Rodriguez, who had broken out of an 0-for-23 slump with a single in the second inning, singled home another run to make it 3-0.
Then the Cardinals started picking at the lead. David Eckstein doubled home Aaron Miles in the bottom of the third, and then Yadier Molina doubled home Scott Rolen in the fourth. Just like that, Jeremy Bonderman’s comfortable three-run cushion was down to just a single run.
The Cardinals looked like they were about to take the lead in the sixth inning, when Fernando Rodney provided some much needed relief. Rolen led off with a double, and Preston Wilson moved him to third with a bunt. Bonderman then walked Molina before Jim Leyland went to Rodney out of the pen. Rodney then struck out Miles and John Rodriguez to get the Tigers out of the jam.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Rodney’s accolades ended in the sixth inning. In the seventh inning, Rodney gave-up a lead off double to Eckstein, during which Curtis Granderson slipped on the wet grass. Had Granderson not slipped, he probably would have ended up making that catch and we might have had a much different game.
So Taguchi then came in to bunt Eckstein over, but Rodney threw the ball away and Eckstein came around to score to make it 3-3. It was the fourth error made by a Tigers pitcher in the World Series. Rodney gave Albert Pujols a free pass before he struck out Jim Edmonds and Rolen. Then with runners still on first and second, Wilson singled to left field. Craig Monroe came up firing as So Taguchi rounded third, but the ball was cut off by Brandon Inge, who then tagged Pujols for the third out—but not before So Taguchi scored the go-ahead run. Whether Taguchi would have been out at home or not will be one of those great “what ifs,” because despite getting the out, the Cardinals got the go ahead run to make it 4-3.
The Tigers did tie the game back up in the top of the eighth. Rodriguez got his third hit of the game with a double, and Inge doubled him home an out later. Adam Wainwright buckled down though, and struck out Alexis Gomez and Curtis Granderson to end the threat.
Joel Zumaya came in to pitch for the Tigers in the eighth, and he walked Yadier Molina on four straight pitches. After a visit to the mound from Jim Leyland, Zumaya finally started throwing strikes and got Aaron Miles to force out Molina on a ground ball. Zumaya then got Juan Encarnacion to strike out, but the third strike was in the dirt and that allowed Miles to move over to second.
You always hear of baseball being called a game of inches, and it proved to be just that in this eighth inning. Eckstein hit a deep fly ball to left, and while Monroe did his best to make a diving catch, the ball hit off of the end of his webbing and ended up being the game-winning hit, as the Cardinals took a 5-4 lead. Wainwright put the Tigers down in order in the ninth inning and the Cardinals had a 3-1 series lead.
For you history buffs, the outcome of the first four games in this series exactly matches the 1968 World Series, when the Tigers and Cardinals faced off. The Tigers went on to win three straight to win it all that year.
Jeff Weaver will be pitching for the Cardinals tomorrow night, assuming they get the game in. Jim Leyland said that he’d be throwing Justin Verlander tomorrow but with this being a do-or-die game, I think there’s a chance we might see Kenny Rogers on the mound in what is definitely a must-win game for the Tigers.