Buried in an 0-2 hole, he fouled nine pitches back, checked his swing barely soon enough to avoid a third strike, and tired out more people than just A's reliever Justin Duchscherer. Manager Jim Leyland called it a 1 1/2-Marlboro at-bat.
"I'd describe it as a 10 nail-biter at-bat," Inge said.
Others would simply say it decided the game.
Until Thursday, the Tigers hadn't come back in a game when trailing after six innings, let alone eight. Shorter-term, nobody had scored in this game since the first inning. Jeremy Bonderman and Barry Zito recovered from rough starts to trade zeroes through the seventh, sending the A's into the ninth with a 3-1 lead. With closer Huston Street out with a sore pectoral muscle, Oakland sent in Duchscherer, and the Tigers pounced.
Ordonez, whose first-inning double had driven in Detroit's only run to that point, led off the rally with a ground-ball infield single behind first base. Alexis Gomez followed with a pinch-hit double, moving Ordonez to third before Chris Shelton lined an 0-2 pitch into left field for an RBI single.
Likewise, Duchscherer put Carlos Guillen in an 0-2 hole before he lined a 2-2 pitch into right for a game-tying single.
After Craig Monroe bunted into a fielder's choice, Inge took a first strike, then swung and missed at the second. The latter set up Inge for the rest of the at-bat.
"It was ugly," Inge said. "I was thinking sinker and he was thinking slider. That didn't quite cooperate with me. That was the pitch that made me re-adjust. I just tried to tone it down, and I tried to stay on some balls."
Inge keeps inning, rally going
|Brandon Inge's walk after a 15-pitch at-bat against Justin Duchscherer loaded the bases, setting the stage for Curtis Granderson's base on balls that pushed across the eventual game-winning run to cap the Tigers' ninth-inning rally. |
Pitch # - Result
|Pitch 1 - Called Strike|
|Pitch 2 - Swinging Strike|
|Pitch 3 - Foul|
|Pitch 4 - Foul|
|Pitch 5 - Ball|
|Pitch 6 - Foul|
|Pitch 7 - Foul|
|Pitch 8 - Foul|
|Pitch 9 - Foul|
|Pitch 10 - Ball|
|Pitch 11 - Foul|
|Pitch 12 - Foul|
|Pitch 13 - Foul|
|Pitch 14 - Ball|
|Pitch 15 - Ball -- Inge walks to load the bases.|
|Granderson followed with a five-pitch walk for an RBI.|
He fouled off two pitches, took a ball, then fouled back four more pitches. None of the foul balls were well-hit. None were heading down the lines and simply missed. They were souvenirs for the box seats behind home plate. However, they weren't supposed to be defensive swings.
"I know I was right on a lot of them," Inge said. "I shouldn't have missed them."
Duchscherer tried to draw Inge further outside, but he set a limit. By the 10th pitch, Inge was among those thinking this showdown would probably decide the game.
After Duchscherer served up ball two, Inge fouled off three more pitches. He nearly went chasing for a fourth, the 14th pitch of the at-bat, but hesitated and hoped. He had tried to check on a 3-2 pitch in his previous at-bat in the seventh inning against Barry Zito, but first-base umpire Angel Hernandez rung him up on appeal. This time, Hernandez didn't call it.
"I'm never sure, the way I check my swing," Inge said. "That's out of my hands at that point."
Duchscherer's next pitch wasn't close. Inge walked to first, the other runners advanced, and Duchscherer -- now at 31 pitches -- didn't recover.
Granderson watched the whole at-bat from the on-deck circle. He did not go to the plate thinking to take.
"I was just up there trying to be aggressive," Granderson said. "If he gave me a pitch to hit, I was ready to jump on it. As the at-bat kept going, I was ready to hit [on a] 2-1 [count or a] 3-1 [count]."
Granderson's walk didn't take nearly that long, a five-pitch at-bat against a fatigued Duchscherer to bring Guillen trotting home and earn Detroit its first late-inning comeback of the season. They did it with the kind of at-bats Leyland has preached all season.
Three days ago, Leyland chewed out his club after a 10-2 loss in which the Tigers had 14 popouts and two groundouts against Indians starter Paul Byrd, who needed just 88 pitches to last seven innings.
"That Inge at-bat, hopefully people are watching and they see stuff like that. This is a game in April, but that's a nice ballgame for us."
-- Tigers manager Jim Leyland
Zito lasted seven innings against the Tigers Thursday, but used up 100 pitches, 51 of them strikes. His outs were almost even -- nine on the ground, eight in the air.
"If you look at the tapes so far of the games that we've played," Leyland said, "there's a lot of cases where the pitcher didn't get us out, we got ourselves out. I'm not saying it doesn't happen a lot. With a good pitcher like Barry Zito, it's going to happen more often. It's just the challenge of trying to become a little more disciplined yet maintaining our aggressive approach. That's a real fine line."
Even if Fernando Rodney had fallen apart in the bottom of the ninth and the Tigers had lost, Leyland believes this game would've stuck with them.
"We still got a good message today," Leyland said. "We showed that we can battle. Even if we lose that game, it shows a little something to go on. That Inge at-bat, hopefully people are watching and they see stuff like that. This is a game in April, but that's a nice ballgame for us."
It shows the value of the message Leyland repeats over and over about playing the full nine innings. He had said nothing about playing the full 15 pitches.
"My back, my hands [hurt]," Inge said. "I've got blisters now."