October 07, 2009
Prior to Tuesday night, there had been 13 tiebreakers in major league history and most of them had come down to one great or memorable play. Go ahead and rattle them off the top of your win-or-go-home head. Merkle's Boner. The Shot Heard 'Round The World. Bucky beats Boston. Holliday hits his head near home.
After 12 great innings of baseball, I'm not sure if there's an equivalent singular highlight from Minnesota's incredible 6-5 victory over Detroit on Tuesday night, but I do know the game's collective reel would stand against any other.
Honestly, it was as if the baseball gods mixed and matched every possible type of play we'd like to see and then came up with so many that they needed extra innings to serve them up.
Early tape-measure home runs? Check.
Defensive gems that killed would-be rallies? Check.
Big-time baserunning, seeing-eye singles and goat-like gaffes? Check, check and check.
Because there was so much to see — and subsequently so much to forget — I've taken the liberty of ranking the top 10 plays from the game below. Feel free to disagree with me, but also feel free to click on each play to see the memorable highlight from MLB.com. Enjoy.
10. Mashing Magglio ties it in eighth His recently vested $18 million contract might end up hurting the Tigers in 2010, but the presence of Magglio Ordonez(notes) in the Metrodome was worth every penny. The right fielder started the game's scoring with a RBI single in the third and then tied the score at four with a solo shot to lead off the eighth inning.
9. Cabrera's home run gives Twins lead in seventh A midseason acquisition from Oakland, Orlando Cabrera(notes) gave the Twins their first lead of the game with a two-run shot that just reached sanctuary in the first row of the Metrodome's left field bleachers.
8. Miguel Cabrera's third inning home run A 423-foot, two-run blast to right center field by the Tigers first baseman gave his team an early 3-0 lead and filled my inbox with profane people asking if I still wanted him suspended. There's no doubt Cabrera pulled his weight with a 2-for-5 night, but I stand by my original statement. Had Cabrera not made a series of awful decisions over the weekend, the Tigers may not have even needed to play Tuesday's game. What's more, his 6 a.m. fight with his wife left him with a soiled reputation among reasonable people that won't easily be repaired with just one well-timed home run.
7. Don Kelly dashes home in 10th Aubrey Huff(notes) was plunked by a Jesse Crain(notes) pitch with one out in the first extra inning and Kelly was summoned to the field as a pinch runner. Brandon Inge(notes) doubled to left one batter later and Kelly did his job, coming all the way around to score from first. Joe Mauer(notes) did a great job of trying to block the plate, but it was too little, too late on Kelly, who gave Detroit an early edge in extras.
6. Nick Punto eats up Cabrera at the plate The Twins second baseman is the player most often cited as having the characteristics of a piranha and he showed why in the top of the 12th. With one out and the sacks packed with Tigers, Punto fielded a chopper from Inge, realized that a double play probably wasn't happening and then threw a bullet home to force out Miguel Cabrera(notes). The play came just after Inge was probably hit by a pitch — home plate Randy Marsh said he didn't see nuthin' — so Punto doubled Detroit's feeling of being robbed of a run and set the stage for the game-winner in the bottom of the inning.
5. Tolbert's seeing-eye single in 10th I'm still not sure how Matt Tolbert's(notes) single up the middle squeezed by second baseman Placido Polanco(notes) — an above-average infielder — but it somehow did. The hit allowed the Twins to escape what might have been a game-ending double play and let Michael Cuddyer(notes) score from third with the tying run.
4. Cabrera turns double play in ninth Twins closer Joe Nathan(notes) was reeling with runners at the corners and only one out when Orlando Cabrera hit the escape hatch for him. Snagging a quick liner up the middle from Ordonez, Cabrera made a quick throw to first and doubled off Curtis Granderson(notes), who was leading too much with the play right in front of him.
3. Raburn throws Casilla out at home The game could have been over two frames earlier than it was, but Tigers' left fielder Ryan Raburn(notes) cleanly fielded a lineout by Punto and then threw a strike to Gerald Laird(notes) that nailed Alexi Casilla(notes) at the plate. It was a good throw by Raburn, but it unfortunately didn't make up for ...
2. Raburn's misplay leads to Cuddyer's triple Dome field advantage reared its ugly head for the Twins in the bottom of the 10th when Raburn lost a sinking liner from Michael Cuddyer in the lights and the ball flew under him for a leadoff triple.
"I was right on it until it went in the lights," Raburn later said. "I just kept hoping it would come out and it never did."
Since the play gave the deflated Twins — and 54,088 of their rowdy fans — new energy and life, it might have been the biggest and most important play of the night. Still, I find it hard to blame Raburn too much for trying to make a play that was possible without the pesky interference of those lights.
1. Casilla's game-winning single The sight of the Twins team rushing to greet Carlos Gomez(notes) as he joyfully slid into home plate is the one we'll probably always remember from a game that was full of memorable plays. A walkoff homer from Joe Mauer might have been more dramatic, but for some reason, Casilla's "fister" seemed to serve as a fitting end for a contest that should always have its greatness judged in full.