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Tigers relish long-shot win: 'That's awesome'

@alysonfooter
August 22, 2019

HOUSTON -- A few hours before the start of Wednesday's game between the Tigers and Astros, an ESPN.com article traveled around in somewhat viral fashion, not because it was the most compelling game on the MLB schedule, but because the article suggested it might be the most lopsided matchup, ever.

HOUSTON -- A few hours before the start of Wednesday's game between the Tigers and Astros, an ESPN.com article traveled around in somewhat viral fashion, not because it was the most compelling game on the MLB schedule, but because the article suggested it might be the most lopsided matchup, ever.

"VERLANDER, ASTROS HISTORIC FAVORITES AGAINST TIGERS," the headline screamed. The article went on to lay out, in great detail, what a long shot the Tigers were to win -- the longest shot, in fact, the baseball-betting community had seen in nearly two decades, at least.

This did not go unnoticed by the Tigers, many of whom initially reacted to the article with muted amusement. That’s about how far it went, though. With 37 wins heading into that matchup with Justin Verlander, an American League Cy Young Award candidate, the rebuilding Tigers aren't exactly clueless about what kind of season they're having.

But, still.

"Baseball's a crazy game," catcher John Hicks said. "You see college sports that have a crazy spread odds. That makes sense, because maybe Alabama's playing a small school. But so many things can happen in baseball -- on any given night, guys can pitch really well. You never know what can happen in the game of baseball."

And, as we know now, the unthinkable did indeed happen. The Tigers scraped out a gutty 2-1 win over Verlander behind sterling pitching, two solo home runs and two late-game defensive plays that many were still talking about the next day.

Did the ESPN article provide any added incentive for the players? Likely not. But no matter how much a team struggles, there is still professional pride on the line. Tigers players had to have received just a tiny bit of satisfaction by staging such a dramatic upset, no?

"It's not impossible for us to beat Verlander,” said veteran pitcher Edwin Jackson. “It's a skills game. In baseball, everyone has a bat and a ball. You never know who's going to win. There's no pitcher with a perfect record. The worst team in the league can beat the best pitcher on any given day."

"I didn't hear about [the article] until after the game," infielder Gordon Beckham said. "Somebody mentioned it to me later that night. I don't think any of us really knew. But we heard about it -- biggest upset in 15 years? That's awesome."

Veteran infielder Jordy Mercer admitted he was moderately amused by the article, but, like his teammates, he didn't put a lot of stock into it one way or another. His focus was more on how much fun the game was to be a part of and the impact it can have on a team, especially the less experienced players.

"You can build camaraderie around a win like that, especially when things haven't been going your way," Mercer said. "We have a lot of young kids in here, and they'll remember that win. Baseball's a funny game. That's why you go out and play -- you never know what's going to happen. That's the beauty of the game."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.