The cool, rainy weather was the first sign the end of the season was approaching. The Yankees' score on the out-of-town scoreboard and on the TV in the home clubhouse sealed it. The Tigers were in their second rain delay Wednesday night while a thousand miles away Mariano Rivera was clinching the American League's final playoff berth for New York with a win at Tampa Bay.
Moments later, back in Detroit, crew chief Bruce Froemming called the Tigers' game, giving them a 9-4 win over the Twins. And suddenly, that was it. There were no hugs on the field, no ovation from the fans in front of the home dugout, though some of the few fans who still were around gave a cheer when the game went final.
"It was nice to get a win on the last day," Sean Casey said. "It was kind of a weird ending."
It certainly seemed like an anticlimactic one, not that the Tigers were expecting a climax to their playoff hopes, anyway.
"A little strange," Brandon Inge said. "It kind of goes with it, though -- kind of winding down the season, and it's basically not [up to] us. It's up to what [the Yankees] do. We go out there and play hard all the time, but to be honest with you, it really didn't matter what we did too much.
"If they played well, they win. If we played well and they played well, they still win."
A couple weeks ago, after the Tigers kept their playoff hopes alive with a sweep of the Twins at the Metrodome, Todd Jones compared their chances to a scene from the movie Tin Cup. They had a 260-yard shot awaiting them, he said, and they needed to stick it on the green. As those hopes finally faded for good into the rainy night Wednesday, Inge spent the delay taking on manager Jim Leyland in a clubhouse putting contest.
"It's not my strong suit," Inge said.
Before the first rain delay, the Tigers played through three seesaw innings that saw Jair Jurrjens give up four first-inning runs, three of them on Rondell White's bases-clearing double.
Mike Rabelo's two-run double paced a three-run second inning off Johan Santana to put Detroit back in the game.
Jurrjens threw 40 pitches to get out of the first inning. He needed just nine to retire the side in the second, then 15 in the third. He credited his turnaround, in part, to a pep talk from pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, who used Santana as an example of someone who gave up four first-inning runs and then shut down Detroit in one game.
|"You can give your all. That's all you can do. Play as hard as you can and represent the team in the best manner that you can. If you win, you win. If you don't, well, you can sleep [well], because you left it all out there."|
|-- Brandon Inge|
After a one-hour, 18-minute delay, both starting pitchers were out of the game. It was the first time in 123 starts that Santana didn't last at least five innings. Fitting with the theme of the night, it took Mother Nature to end the streak for a pitcher who plays his home games in a dome.
Once play resumed and the game went to the bullpens, the Tigers pounced on Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn (0-1) for a six-run fourth. Ryan Raburn slugged Detroit into the lead with a two-run triple before Mike Hessman, who homered to lead off the inning, singled in another run.
"It's great for him," Leyland said of Hessman. "I was going to pinch-hit Timo Perez for him, and [instead] I thought to let him take a whack at one. Shows how dumb I am."
Tim Byrdak (3-0), reprising his long relief role to some extent, made the lead stick with two scoreless innings. Jason Grilli, who did his usual run from the bullpen to the mound while the grounds crew was climbing behind the tarp in anticipation of another rain delay, recorded an out before Froemming ordered the tarp back on.
The Tigers had planned to honor Froemming, who is retiring at season's end, after the half-inning. Once he called for the delay, with the game likely to be called, the thank-you message for Froemming went up on the scoreboard. Both managers posed for a photo with the longtime umpire in the rain. It was another edition of the strangeness, and it came a half-hour before Detroit's pennant defense effectively ended in another game a thousand miles away under a roof.
Some watched the game. Others found different ways to spend the delay. Inge, who doesn't consider himself a scoreboard watcher, putted.
"You can give your all. That's all you can do," Inge said of the baseball season, not the putting contest. "Play as hard as you can and represent the team in the best manner that you can. If you win, you win. If you don't, well, you can sleep [well], because you left it all out there."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.