By Luigi Natale
The Tigers and Cubs have been rivals for as long as anyone can remember. Their Saturday afternoon showdown was destined to be memorable, and boy, was it ever! The commisioner, Ralph Martignetti, moved the game to the earlier 1:30 slot, clearly for the TV coverage. Luigi Natale’s Tigers and Dan Shea’s Cubs were ready for battle.
Sal Deangelis started the game on the mound for the Tigers. Sal knew he had strong defensive support behind him. Jordany Posada proved Sal right when he caught Richard Bova’s fly ball to get the first out of the game. Sal then struck out the next batter. Peter Shea then singled and stole second but was stranded there when Sal struck out the number 4 batter for the final out of the inning.
The Tigers then batted in the bottom of the first. Michael Anderson was on the mound and looking strong. Alberto hit a fly to center field that James Heath snagged for the first out. Ryan Maziarka grounded to the shortstop, Richard Bova, who made the 6-3 play. And then, Luigi Natale’s “never say die” Tigers responded with two outs. Sean Leetch batting third, drew the walk and stole second. With Sal and Carlo Crocini’s back to back hits, the Tigers scored the first run of the game. With two runners on, the Tigers were threatening to score more but a grounder to Nic Dimambro ended the inning with a fielder’s choice.
In the second inning, the pitching duel really kicked in. Sal turned it up a notch..3 up, 3 down – all via strikeout. Michael Anderson walked one but got out of the inning with 2 strikeouts and a fielders choice, a grounder fielded nicely by the Cub’s second baseman.
On to the third…Sal struck out the first two batters (both called out looking). Then, Richard Bova hit a shot for a triple but was stranded at third when Sal struck out yet another batter. Over those three innings, Sal gave up 2 hits, no runs and struck out 8.
The Tigers got up to the plate to face Peter Shea who came in to pitch the next three innings. Peter struck out the first batter and then walked Ryan Maziarka. Ryan stole two bases but was stranded at 3rd when Peter struck out the next two batters.
In the fourth Inning, Ryan Maziarka came in to relieve Sal. He faced Peter Shea who hit a shot to third. Carlo Crocini fielded the ball cleanly and gunned it to Jordany at first for the first out of the inning. Ryan then settled into a groove and struck out the next two.
The Tigers continued to have trouble with the Cubs southpaw. Peter struck out two more, then hit a batter but was able to compose himself to strike out the final batter of the inning.
In the fifth inning, Ryan was back on the mound and struck out two. But the highlight of the fifth inning was a play by Tigers second baseman Richard Wells. James Heath hit a blazing one-hopper to second that Richard snared and threw to first for the out.
Tigers were up again but Peter Shea struck out the side: 1, 2, 3. Peter had a powerful performance in his three innings. He held the Tigers hitless, struck out nine and only allowed two base runners (a walk and a hit batter).
And now, on to the top of the 6th. The ever dangerous Cubs were down by 1 run with their top of the order coming to the plate. The fans from both sides were on the edge of their seats. Tourists jumped off their tour buses, others abandoned graduation parties and lined the streets to watch the end of this pressure cooker.
Things were looking good for the Tigers with Ryan striking out the first two batters. Peter Shea then beat out an infield single. The tying run was now on first. Michael Anderson hit a line drive up the middle. This ball looked like trouble but PJ McMahon was able to knock it down and get the ball in, nearly picking off Peter Shea who was rounding second. The threat continued with Peter and Michael executing the double steal. Now the tying run was on third, the go-ahead run on second and two outs. Ryan struck out the next batter and sealed the shutout victory for the Tigers.
Game ball went to PJ McMahon – if that ball went by him in the top of the sixth, that may have been a game changer.