DETROIT - At first, it didn't look as if Eddie Bonine would get out of the first inning.
But he did, and now the Minnesota Twins may never get the Detroit Tigers out of first place.
The magic number is 2 - any combination of Tigers' wins or Twins' losses - for Detroit to win the AL Central Division and advance to postseason play. And that can be accomplished in one fell swoop this afternoon when the teams close out a four-game series at Comerica Park.
Bonine's outing last night wasn't his longest and wasn't his best. But it was his biggest.
It was almost over before it started. After one out, five straight Twins reached base and two runs were across in the first inning.
This could have been catastrophic because there are four more games in the regular season and manager Jim Leyland said he'd be handing the ball to
up-and-down Nate Robertson and mystery man Alfredo Figaro in two of them.
"I don't know much about him," Leyland said of Figaro. "But that's what we've got and that's who we're going with."
Well, there's a ringing
And, his thoughts on Bonine, who rejoined the Tigers for the fourth time when major league rosters were expanded on Sept. 1?
"Well, when he's right …"
Leyland said before the game.
But Bonine looked anything but right.
Then he induced Jose Morales to hit into an inning-ending double play - it was a smash somehow handled by second baseman Placido Polanco - and four shutout innings later the Tigers were well on their way.
The final was 7-2. Detroit got to Carl Pavano, the Twins' starter, for the first time this season as Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago had the big hits in a four-run second. The Tigers got three more in the fifth when Magglio Ordonez rapped a bases-loaded double, a hit which raised his average to .300 on the nose, a staggering accomplishment considering how he struggled for some two-thirds of the season.
In five previous 2009 starts against the Tigers, for both Cleveland and Minnesota, Pavano was 4-0 and had allowed but seven earned runs in 371/3 innings.
Ordonez's hit made it seven earned runs in 42/3 innings this time.
For Bonine, it was a well-
deserved victory because this has been one of those years. He made an opening-day, big-league roster for the first time in his career, but had a 9.00 ERA after four relief appearances and was quickly shipped to Toledo, where he had a 1.88 ERA, but no wins, after his first four starts. Then he dropped three straight and soon had to deal with the loss of his mother to cancer.
He's in the Tigers' rotation now only because of injuries, but he made the most of the moment and picked a pretty good time to post his first major league win of the season.
"I was a little nervous," Bonine said. "There was some pressure. To follow [Justin] Verlander out there after what he did in [Tuesday's] nightcap, yeah, it was a big spot. It was a big game. At the start, I was trying to be too fine, too perfect. You can't pitch like that.
"We got a great play from Polly [Polanco] or that inning could have been a lot worse. The Twins have a great ballclub and I couldn't afford to spot them three or four runs. So that play was huge and then I just settled in and tried to keep it at two and give us a chance."
Leyland agreed that Polanco starting the twin killing was the "biggest play of the game.
Morales hit it hard and Polly managed to knock it down and we turned it. Bonine was shaky to that point, but he was fantastic the rest of the time he was out there. He kept the damage down to a minimum. Now, we've got three [against the Twins] behind us and we'll see what we can do tomorrow."
Bonine won't have to do anything today except enjoy.
"It's going to be exciting to come to the ballpark," he said. "It could be a special day."
He certainly did his part to set the stage.
Contact Blade sports columnist
Dave Hackenberg at:
or 419-724-639842.33168 -83.04792
At first, it didn't look as if Eddie Bonine would get out of the first inning.