DETROIT -- Oh, how the course of a decade can change a situation.
The Tigers’ decade began with a rise back to prominence that led to four consecutive American League Central titles, a World Series appearance, a pair of big-name free-agent signings in Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder, a rotation that was the envy of baseball and a lofty post among the game’s power teams. Though the Tigers didn’t get a championship from the run, then-general manager Dave Dombrowski and the late owner Michael Ilitch made Detroit into a baseball destination and turned Comerica Park into a packed house on many summer nights.
By decade’s end, the Tigers were longing for those days when they were perennial contenders. Detroit earned the top pick in the MLB Draft twice in three years, and general manager Al Avila spent resources modernizing a front office and player-development system that had fallen behind from analytics to technology. The hope is that those efforts will pay off with a team that can vie for division titles again in the next decade.
No coincidence, then, that many of the greatest Tigers games of the decade happened in the first half of it:
1) The perfect game that wasn’t
Date: June 2, 2010
What started out as a humdrum weeknight division game between the Tigers and Indians became a run at history, when fill-in starter Armando Galarraga retired Cleveland’s first 26 batters. He seemingly retired the 27th, as well, for a perfect game, but first-base umpire Jim Joyce’s safe call on Jason Donald’s would-be game-ending grounder set off madness at the ballpark and elsewhere -- leaving Galarraga to settle for a one-hitter in a 3-0 win. What began as a missed call became a lesson in forgiveness when Galarraga and Joyce met the next day.
2) The game that made everyone forget about the Trade Deadline
Date: July 31, 2011
On the day the Tigers announced the Doug Fister trade, they finished off their weekend series against the Angels with a game that turned the Trade Deadline into a footnote. Jered Weaver’s objection to Magglio Ordonez watching a home run ball down the left-field line began an escalation that led to Carlos Guillen staring down Weaver while admiring a home run, Weaver throwing a ball at Alex Avila’s head and being ejected, Erick Aybar bunting to try to break up a Justin Verlander no-hit bid, Verlander yelling at Aybar from the other dugout, and the Tigers pulling out a 3-2 win.
3) Verlander’s second no-hitter
Date: May 7, 2011
Verlander was trying to see his way out of a rough opening month when he took the mound on a Saturday afternoon in Toronto. He ended up taking a perfect game into the eighth inning before J.P. Arencibia drew a 12-pitch walk. Verlander erased him on a double play and faced the minimum 27 batters in the second no-hitter of his career. It was the springboard to a season that saw him flirt with a no-hitter seemingly every other start for the summer on his way to AL MVP and Cy Young honors.
4) Rumble in the Bronx
Date: Oct. 6, 2011
The Tigers’ first postseason series in five years came down to a winner-take-all Game 5 in their AL Division Series against the Yankees -- a formidable task in the Bronx, after Detroit missed a chance to advance in Game 4. But Don Kelly and Delmon Young hit first-inning solo homers to put the Tigers in command as Fister and three relievers scattered 10 Yankees hits in a 3-2 Tigers win, culminating in Jose Valverde celebrating on the Yankee Stadium mound.
5) Verlander knocks out A’s in ALDS
Date: Oct. 11, 2012
Oakland seemingly had all the Division Series momentum after a three-run ninth inning for a comeback victory to force a Game 5 for the Tigers on the road, but Verlander had other ideas. He held the A’s to three singles and a double over nine innings with 11 strikeouts to quiet the Oakland crowd and send the Tigers to the AL Championship Series in New York with a 6-0 win.
6) Tigers go back to World Series
Date: Oct. 18, 2012
By the time the Tigers and Yankees played Game 4 of their ALCS, the outcome was in very little doubt. Still, for the Tigers to sweep the 95-win Bronx Bombers out of the postseason meant something, and they punctuated it with an 8-1 drubbing in front of 42,477 fans who were ready for a party at Comerica Park. Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta homered off CC Sabathia in a four-run fourth inning, and Max Scherzer struck out 10 over 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball to send Detroit to its second World Series in seven seasons.
7) Verlander knocks out A’s again
Date: Oct. 10, 2013
Nearly a year to the day after Verlander first sent the A’s home from the playoffs, the two teams were in the same position in the 2013 ALDS, this time with the Tigers winning Game 4 at home to send the series back to Oakland. A’s fans were eager for revenge, but Verlander was ready to repeat, holding his opposition to two hits with 10 strikeouts over eight innings in a 3-0 victory.
8) Miggy’s homers are bigger in Texas
Date: May 19, 2013
For all of Cabrera’s career feats, he had only one three-homer game until a steamy Sunday night in Texas. After hitting two tape-measure home runs off Rangers starter Derek Holland, Cabrera punctuated his night with a drive to straightaway center off Tanner Scheppers. The Tigers lost an 11-8 slugfest, but Cabrera stole the show on a national stage.
9) Sanchez sets team record with 17-K game vs. Braves
Date: April 26, 2013
The Braves were a hard-slugging, free-swinging bunch that tended to chase pitches off the plate. Aníbal Sánchez was a deceptive starter who didn’t need to throw hard to leave hitters flummoxed. The combination was magical on a Friday night at Comerica Park, where Sanchez kept on sending Atlanta’s hitters back to the dugout until he had surpassed Mickey Lolich’s single-game record with 17 strikeouts over eight innings -- including nine of his final 14 batters. The Tigers cruised to a 10-0 win.
10) Boyd flirts with no-hitter
Date: Sept. 17, 2017
The Tigers, having broken up their roster by trading Verlander, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton, were in a brutal home stretch to a difficult season while embarking on a rebuild. Matthew Boyd, on the other hand, was feeling stingy, and had a White Sox Sunday afternoon lineup in his sights. The result was near history. A third-inning walk was all Boyd allowed until two outs in the ninth inning, when Tim Anderson doubled over Nicholas Castellanos’ head in right field. The Tigers cruised to a 12-0 win, while Boyd made a statement of what was to come.