DETROIT -- A series of bizarre events unfolded in the ninth inning of the Tigers' game against the Angels on Wednesday night at Comerica Park. A fan ran onto the field and disrupted the game for several minutes with two outs in the ninth before he was wrestled down by security officers, though that seemed normal after what transpired earlier in the inning. Curtis Granderson homered off a left-handed pitcher for the first time all season for a much-needed insurance run in the top half of the ninth, and Todd Jones got Vladimir Guerrero to ground into an improbable double play in the bottom half of the inning for a 8-7 Tigers win.
It was tough to figure if Granderson's or Jones' feat was more unlikely. Granderson had been 1-for-27 this season against left-handed pitchers, good for a paltry .037 batting average. Manager Jim Leyland usually doesn't even start Granderson against lefties, but decided to leave him in to face Darren Oliver. "I'm still trying to figure [lefties] out," Granderson said. "Because I think they've already figured me out." He at least figured it out for one pitch against Oliver, as he took the veteran left-hander deep down the left-field line for his eighth homer of the season. It could have been just a good boost for Granderson's confidence against lefties, but it instead turned into the most important run of the game for the Tigers. Jones gave up a run in the ninth, though he actually won the battle. The run scored when he got Guerrero to ground into a double play, clearly a victory for Jones, who has struggled mightily against the former American League MVP during his career. Guerrero had been 4-for-6 with a home run and two doubles against Jones in their previous meetings. This time, though, Jones said he was "lucky" enough to get a sinker inside on Guerrero for the first and second outs of the inning. "He's a great hitter and he has great numbers against me," Jones said. "Obviously, I don't strike the fear into him even a little." After Jones retired Guerrero, a young fan then jumped the fence on the third-base side of the field and ran across to the first-base side before eventually working his way toward Jones on the pitching mound. "He was heading toward the infield, and you never know, so I dropped my glove and tried to get him to just stop. Let me get this last out and let's get out of here," Jones said. "I was waiting for a Kyle Farnsworth moment because that would have gotten me on SportsCenter and helped my macho points, for sure." Jones didn't need to prove his machismo, as the trespasser was tackled by several police and security officers before he was escorted off the field. Jones refocused and was able to get Gary Matthews Jr. to fly out to end the game. "I got the double-play ball the pitch before, so that really could have been the worst time [for the fan to interrupt the game]," Jones said. "But I got two outs, and a one-run lead with Gary Matthews Jr. up, so there's never a good time." If the ninth inning wasn't crazy enough, the rest of the game was entertaining as a big Tigers lead was dwindled down in the late innings after problems in the bullpen. The Tigers got ahead early after they loaded the bases in the second inning with two outs and scored on back-to-back two-run singles from Granderson and Placido Polanco. Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez hit solo homers in the third and fifth innings, respectively, for a 6-2 lead in support of starter Chad Durbin. Ordonez added another solo homer in the seventh for a 7-3 lead. After Durbin exited, Jason Grilli threw two perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, after Durbin left, allowing three runs over five innings. Leyland said he was going to start the eighth inning with reliever Tim Byrdak but decided on Jose Mesa, which may have rushed his time to warm up in the bullpen. "In fairness to Jose, that was my fault. I was going to start the inning with Byrdak and then I changed my mind because Jose gets Guerrero out pretty good," Leyland said. "That might have gotten him out of kilter a little bit." Mesa did strike out Guerrero, the first batter he faced, but gave up a three-run homer to Mike Napoli, which cut the Tigers' lead to 7-6. Leyland said he may have used Fernando Rodney in that situation, but he had a hard time getting loose in the bullpen. Byrdak then came in to strike out Chone Figgins for the final out of the eighth, and the Tigers were able to preserve their lead. "You always need as many runs as you can get and need to lay it on thick," said Grilli. "It's never over 'til that last out is made."
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.