"We had to do something for Jeremy," said Brandon Inge, whose bunt single led off a go-ahead three-run eighth that lifted Detroit to a 3-1 win on Monday at Miller Park. "Even if it wasn't that inning, we had to score sometime. ... That was a feeling that I'm not going to let my teammates down. And I hadn't [sensed] that since I've been here."
The way the Tigers have been winning, it's hard not to have that feeling. But Monday wasn't entirely about a Tigers win. As Jim Leyland put it, it was about justice.
"I think Bonderman, to me, was the best I've ever seen [him] for five innings. Maybe six," Leyland said. "It's just justice that he got the win. I'm so happy for him."
No Tigers pitcher had posted double-digit strikeouts in back-to-back games since David Wells on May 30 and June 4, 1993. He didn't get a decision in either of them, leaving both games with the score tied.
No Tiger had posted back-to-back 12-strikeout games since Mickey Lolich fanned 14 each on July 31 and Aug. 4, 1971. Lolich lost a 2-1 decision with 12 innings pitched in the former, then won a 2-1 complete game in the latter.
Though Bonderman fanned a dozen Devil Rays last Wednesday at Comerica Park, he left after eight innings with a 1-0 deficit before the Tigers tied it in the ninth, then lost in extra innings. Not only did the Tigers rally their way ahead on Monday, they did it in time for Bonderman to get the victory.
He hadn't won since June 3, though that's when his dominant run began. He has struck out 36 batters in 28 2/3 innings over his last four starts, allowing just six runs on 20 hits. Both he and his manager credit his recent streak to having fun, but he certainly wasn't having any when he gave up his only run.
Bonderman's six straight strikeouts fell one short of Denny McLain's 41-year-old franchise record. Mixing his trademark slider with mid-90s fastballs and sinkers, he retired 13 consecutive batters and scattered two ground-ball singles through six innings. The only balls put in the air and in play in that span were a first-inning flyout to center from Corey Koskie and Carlos Lee's fourth-inning popout to catcher, just before Bonderman's strikeout streak.
"His slider was unhittable," catcher Ivan Rodriguez said.
The next ball in the air wasn't in play, either, but it was out to the wrong part of the park for Bodnerman. Having put Prince Fielder in an 0-2 hole, he tried to catch him with a swingback fastball on the inside corner.
"It was the wrong pitch at the wrong time," Bonderman said. "The only place you're going to miss with that pitch was over the plate."
Fielder, who grew up around the Tigers with while his father was their slugging first baseman, put the pitch where none of them would get it, just over the fence in left-center field.
While Fielder and the Brewers were celebrating in the dugout, Leyland was on the mound talking with his 23-year-old starter, telling him they were going to have to score to win anyway and to not let one hit create more trouble.
After Geoff Jenkins hit a one-out double, Bonderman retired Damian Miller. He then made some of the more important pitches of the inning out of the strike zone to intentionally walk the eighth hitter Brady Clark. That brought up Davis' spot and Gabe Gross to pinch-hit.
Gross drew a five-pitch walk, loading the bases, but Bonderman escaped with a Rickie Weeks comebacker on his 100th and final pitch. Thanks to the intentional walk, Davis was done, too, with nine strikeouts in seven innings.
"He just didn't put a ball on the white part of the plate," Inge said.
Once Davis left, Inge went to the plate already thinking bunt. He thought otherwise when he first read the defense.
"I had my eye on the second baseman and Fielder at first," Inge said. "I looked up with one strike and realized they shifted to the middle. It was an opportunity to get something going."
Inge dropped a bunt single down the first-base line leading off the eighth that he would've beaten out even with a good throw. When Matt Wise threw the ball into right field, Inge turned and went to second.
With Inge on second, Leyland gave pinch-hitter Gomez one chance to swing away. When he fouled off the first pitch, he changed the plan to bunting Inge over.
Gomez laid his bunt down the third-base line. Koskie briefly watched it roll, then picked it up and fired low and late to first.
That was all Inge needed.
"I just read it," said Inge, who slowed up at third before darting for the plate. "I saw it go between [Fielder's] legs a little bit, and when I saw [he didn't have it], I thought I had enough time to get to home. My only concern was how I was going to touch home plate, because Miller had it blocked."
Inge still isn't sure how he touched it, but he did, beating Fielder's throw and tying the game. After Placido Polanco walked with one out, Jose Capellan replaced Wise and struck out Rodriguez. He fell behind on a 3-0 count to Magglio Ordonez, who hit a 3-1 pitch for an opposite-field liner off the right-field wall.
Bonderman saw it all.
"It was fun to watch," he said. "You enjoy seeing guys play the way they did."
The same could be said the other way around.
"We didn't pick Bondo up," Leyland said. "Bondo picked us up."