Paying Tribute to the Greatest Tiger Team of My Generation
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Senior Smoke had one of the more underappreciated careers of any Tiger in 1980s. He emerged as the Tigers’ closer in the last 70s, and his best season might have been 1979, when he finished seventh in the Cy Young. By 1981, he had lost the closer job to Kevin Saucier, and later, Dave Tobik until he picked it back up in 1983 and made the All-Star team.
His 1984 season was nothing short of fantastic. He set a career high by pitching in 137 2/3 innings (unheard of by a reliever these days), and posted a near perfect 10-1 record, with his only loss coming in the final week of the season. If there was one fault to Lopez’s game, it was his propensity to give up the long ball. But he finished his career with an impressive 62-36 career record, while racking up 93 saves.
Here’s Lopez’s 1984 numbers:
Innings Pitched 137 2/3
Pitching Runs Above Replacement 43
Both his PRAR and his Stuff were hurt because of his homer rate, but this is an impressive season for a reliever by any standard. The fact that he was the second best reliever on the team that year means Sparky had two outstanding arms coming out of the pen.
Scorecard – 1975 Reds 7, 1984 Tigers 7
American League Championship Series Game 2October 3, 1984 Tigers 5, Royals 3 Tigers Lead Best of Five Series 2-0
While the first game was over pretty much after the first inning, this game showed why the Kansas City Royals walked away with the AL West division title.
Like Game 1, the Tigers went up quickly in the first to take a 2-0 lead. Lou Whitaker reached on an error, and moved over to second on a deep out to center by Alan Trammell. Mr. Clutch, Kirk Gibson drove in Lou with a double, and then was driven in himself on a double by Lance Parrish.
The Tigers extended their lead to 3-0 when Kirk Gibson hit a solo homerun in the top half of the third. Up 3-0, the Tigers looked to be comfortably in control, but the Royals were poised for a comeback.
It started in the bottom of the fourth off of starter Dan Petry. Pat Sheridan was driven in with a sac fly to cut the lead to 3-1. They added one more run in the seventh on an RBI single by pinch hitter Dane Iorg, then tied the game up off of Willie Hernandez in the eighth on a Hal McRae RBI double.
Neither team would score in the ninth or tenth innings, and it was finally in the eleventh when the Tigers sealed the game up. Lance Parrish led off with a single, and moved to second on an error committed while Darrell Evans was trying to move him over. Ruppert Jones forced out Lance Parrish at third to make it once again first and second with one out. Then John Grubb came up with the big hit, and drove in both baserunners with a two run double.
The Royals made an attempt in the bottom of the eleventh to come back by getting two men on, but Aurelio Lopez pitched out of the jam to earn the win.
And now the Tigers were heading home for two chances at home to take the series. Over in the NLCS, the Cubs had cruised to a similar 2-0 lead, and it appeared we’d have a rematch of the 1945 series.
September 30, 1984 Yankees 9, Tigers 2 (104-58)
Sparky rested most of his starters, and gave his pen a final tune up game before the playoff run. Starter Randy O’Neal was shelled for seven runs, and didn’t escape the fifth inning. Four of the five innings he threw in resulted in runs by the Yankees.
Doug Baker and Barbero Garbey drove in the only runs for the Tigers. The bright spot of the game were shutout innings by Bill Scherrer, Aurelio Lopez, and Willie Hernandez. It was nice to see the pen more calm going into the playoffs after a rough week.
With the loss, the Detroit Tiger’s regular season ended. They’d be playing in the playoffs for the first time since 1972 when they lost to the Oakland A’s in the ALCS.
September 27, 1984 Yankees 2, Tigers 1 (102-57)
The duo of Willie Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez lost four games all season. This same duo lost two of those game in a row in the final week of the season. Good from the stand point of how dominating they were for so long, but not good from the stand point of Sparky being worried about his best arms going out on him.
Jack Morris had one his best starts in a long time. Possibly his best start of the season outside of no-hitter. He pitched seven innings of two hit ball. Six walks came back to haunt him though, as the Yankees’ Bobby Meacham walked to lead off the sixth, and was eventually driven in by Dave Winfield to tie the game at 1-1.
Then with the game still tied in the bottom of the eighth, Bobby Meacham scored again on a single by Don Baylor off of Willie Hernandez. Darrell Evans had a chance to pull together a comeback, but he flew out with runners on first and second with two outs.
The Tigers needed to split the series to tie the 1968 Detroit Tigers mark for wins in a season, and they got off to a tough start. Now they needed to win two of three.
September 26, 1984 Brewers 7, Tigers 5 (102-56)
The Tigers would have to wait for another game to have a shot at tying the 1968 Detroit Tigers 103 wins, and the for one of the few times this season, it was the bullpen to blame.
Milt Wilcox cruised through first five innings, giving up only one run on four hits. Roger Mason gave up two runs in the sixth to narrow the Tigers lead to 4-3. Then with the Tigers up 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Aurelio Lopez gave up four runs on three hits and walk, which included a two run double by Ben Oglivie. After 68 games pitched and 136 1/3 innings, Aurelio Lopez finally lost a game.
September 25, 1984 Tigers 9, Brewers 1 (102-55)
Four runs in the first inning put this game away pretty quickly as Howard Johnson hit a grandslam, his twelth of the season. Lance Parrish followed this with a solo shot in the third, and the Tigers coasted to their 102nd win of the season.
Sparky went with the kids on the mound, and Randy O’Neal improved to 2-0 by pitching five shutout innings, giving up only two hits, and striking out three. Sid Monge, Bill Scherrer, Aurelio Lopez, and Willie Hernandez pitched an inning a piece, with the Brewers tagging Lopez for a run in the eighth. In total, the Brewers only managed six hits against the five pitchers.
And now they stood one win short of the record 103 wins set by the 1968 team. With five games left, the record was definitely within reach.
September 24, 1984 Tigers 7, Brewers 3 (101-55)
Juan Berenguer joined fellow Detroit Tigers Jack Morris, Milt Wilcox, Dan Petry, and Aurelio Lopez as pitchers who achieved ten or more wins. He pitched five solid innings, giving up only five hits and one run, before yielding to the pen.
September 8, 1984 Tigers 10, Blue Jays 4 (91-51)
This game was cruising along, and was tied 2-2 going into the seventh, when the Tigers exploded for two runs in the seventh, and six runs in the eighth. Jack Morris left the game in the fifth, and Bill Scherrer took over and pitched an inning and a third. Aurelio Lopez finished the game out, going three innings and giving up two useless runs in the bottom of the ninth.
September 3, 1984 Orioles 7, Tigers 4 (88-50)
September 2, 1984 Tigers 6, A’s 3 (88-49)
Dan Petry gave up eleven hits in 5 1/3 innings, but only let three A’s cross the plate as the Tigers topped the A’s. The Tigers put four runs on the board in the third inning, and that was basically all they needed. Aurelio Lopez pitched 1 2/3 innings of one hit ball, and Willie Hernandez threw two perfect innings to earn his twenty seventh save.
August 31, 1984 A’s 7, Tigers 6 (87-48)
Milt Wilcox struggled as he walked five batters and gave up four hits in 3 2/3 innings. By the time he left the game, the A’s were up 5-4. The Tigers tied it in the fifth on a solo shot by Alan Trammell.
With the scored tied 5-5 going into the ninth, both teams scored a run to put the game into extra innings. Then in the bottom of the thirteenth, right fielder Mike Davis scored on a Dave Rozema wild pitch to win the game.
Once again, the usual combo of Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez kept the Tigers in this one and at least gave them a chance to win. They combined for 8 1/3 innings, giving up only three hits and one run, while striking out eight.
The loss once again put the Tigers back into a single digit lead over the Blue Jays. With 27 games left, they were 9 1/2 games ahead of Toronto.
August 26, 1984 Tigers 12, Angels 6 (86-45)
Kirk Gibson had a monster day, going three for four, scoring three, and driving in two on two solo homers. Marty Castillo went three for four as well, also scoring three times and hitting a solo shot himself. And Chet Lemon had the blow that set the stage for the win, as he hit a grand slam in top of third.
Milt Wilcox cruised to his fifteenth win, going six innings, striking out five, and giving up five hits. Doug Bair struggled, but by the time the Angels even scored the run, the Tigers had eleven. Aurelio Lopez closed the game getting the final four batters out in order.
August 21, 1984 Tigers 12, A’s 6 (83-44)
For the second straight game, the Tiger’s bats allowed the pitchers a virtual night off. Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez both gave up two runs in an inning of work each, but four runs in the first and four in the sixth pretty much sealed this game up early.
Milt Wilcox pitched a nice game, going six innings and striking out seven. He improved to 14-7. Lance Parrish, Larry Herndon, and Darrell Evans all hit homeruns. Lance Parrish’s dinger was a grand slam in the first inning, and Darrell Evans ended the day going four for five, scoring three times, and driving in three runs.
August 16, 1984 Tigers 8, Angels 7 (79-43)
Some back and forth, wild and crazy games, can be called rollercoasters.
If that’s the case, then this one was Millenium Force. The Tigers took a quick 5-0 lead after two innings, essentially giving Jack Morris some easy sailing.
And he didn’t take advantage of it. Two innings later, Morris was gone, and the Tigers were down 7-5, as one again, he struggled to get batters out. Then enters the bullpen. More on that in a second.
Down 7-5 in the eighth, Alan Trammell drove in two with an RBI single to tie the game. In the bottom of the twelth inning, Barbaro Garbey came up huge with a walk off RBI double to win the game. A nice, solid, come from behind win.
But give a huge dose of credit to the bullpen. Doug Bair, Aurelio Lopez, and Willie Hernandez combined for a total of 8 1/3 innings of four hit, shutout baseball. Another superb job by the pen kept the Tigers in the game, as they salvaged a 2-2 split of the series.
August 14, 1984 Angels 6, Tigers 4 (77-42)
The Tigers lost the first of two in a back and forth affair. The Angels took the lead on three different occassions, only to see the Tigers tie it up, until the top of the ninth when the Angels finally took the lead for good. A Doug DeCinces two run single off of Willie Hernandez was the winning blow, as Willie lost his second game of the season.
Juan Berenguer pitched a solid game, but for one of the few times this season, the Aurelio Lopez/Willie Hernandez combo didn’t come through. Lopez gave up a run in his sole inning, and Willie gave up his two after pitching two innings.
August 14, 1984 Angels 12, Tigers 1 (77-43)
The twelve runs by California matched the Tigers season worst for runs given up in a game. On two other occasions, Tiger’s pitching gave up twelve.
And there were no notables on offense. The Tigers spread out seven singles, and Darrell Evans drove in the only run. With the two losses, the Tiger’s lead over Toronto had dwindled to 7 1/2 games. What looked like a runaway race was tightening up quick.
August 12, 1984 Tigers 8, Royals 4 (77-41)
A four run first inning put the Tigers up for good as Milt Wilcox held the Royals scoreless through the first six innings. The Royals tagged Milt for four runs in the seventh, but the typical tandem of Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez finished the game up to give the Tigers the weekend series sweep.
August 11, 1984 Tigers 9, Royals 5 (76-41)
It wasn’t his best outing of the year, but Jack Morris went one batter short from going the distance, as he gave up five runs on eleven hits. Aurelio Lopez struck out the final batter to earn his twelth save.
August 10, 1984 Tigers 5, Royals 4 (75-41)
It sounds like a broken record, but the usual suspects in the bullpen did it again. Dan Petry pitched 6 2/3 solid innings, but left the game tied 4-4. Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez were nearly flawless in the final 2+ innings, allowing Ruppert Jones to put the Tigers ahead with a solo shot in the eighth inning. Lopez improved to 10-0, and Hernandez saved his 25th game.
The contribution Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez made throughout the 1984 season were incredible. They threw a combined 278 innings, went a combined 19-4, and saved 46 games, all while striking out 206 batters and throwing up a 1.053 WHIP and a 2.43 ERA. Those numbers were by far better then any of the starters and shows why Willie Hernandez got the support he did for the Cy Young.
August 7, 2004 Red Sox 12, Tigers 7 (73-40)
Jack Morris got pounded again. Coming off the heels of the best start he’s had in a while, Jack gave up six hits, two walks and nine runs 1 1/3 innings, forcing Sparky to go to the pen early. Bruce Hurst was hardly stellar, but when you’re given a seven run lead after two innings, there’s not much you can do to lose the game.
August 7, 1984 Tigers 7, Red Sox 5 (74-40)
Milt Wilcox cruised through the first six innings, and then gave up four runs in the seventh to give the Red Sox a 5-4 lead. As a precursor to the 1986 World Series debacle, Dave Bergman scored in the ninth on an error by firstbasemen Bill Buckner that sent the game into extra innings.
August 6, 1984 Tigers 9, Red Sox 7 (73-38)
Dan Petry didn’t have his best stuff, as he gave up six runs and eleven hits in only 4 2/3 innings, but Bob Ojeda was just as worse, as the Tigers scored six on the Red Sox starter as well. Aurelio Lopez pitched 2 2/3 to improve to 8-0, and Willie Hernandez picked up his 23rd save.
August 6, 1984 Red Sox 10, Tigers 2 (73-39)
A drubbing, plain and simple. Carl Willis got one batter before getting pulled, and Doug Bair didn’t much better. By the end of the fourth inning, the Tigers were down 9-1. Rookie starter Roger Clemens threw a solid eight innings, holding the Tigers to six hits while striking out nine.
August 3, 1984 Royals 9, Tigers 6 (72-35)
Milt Wilcox was cruising along until the Royals hit him hard in the fourth. By the end of the inning, Wilcox would be sitting, and Aurilio Lopez would be in the game. Lopez threw another six innings of relief, but it still wasn’t enough.
Lou Whitaker went four for five, and Alan Trammell and Tom Brookens hit homeruns.
July 31, 1984 Tigers 5, Indians 1 (71-32)
Juan Berenguer set the stage with 6 1/3 innings of four hit ball. Doug Bair finished the game with 2 2/3 perfect innings. Once again, a fine showing by the bullpen, and this time, it wasn’t even the usual Lopez/Hernandez tandem.
The Tigers scored all five of their runs in the second inning. Ruppert Jones hit a solo homer, Doug Baker had a three run triple, and Lou Whitaker drove in one on a sacrafice fly. Kirk Gibson added two hits.
July 31, 1984 Indians 6, Tigers 4 (71-33)
Dave Rozema got shelled and left the game in the third inning. Despite an amazing pitching performance by Aurilio Lopez, the Tigers couldn’t come back in this one.
You don’t see this anymore. Ever. Aurilio Lopez, basically the Tigers set up man, started pitching in the third, and finished the game. 6 2/3 innings of shutout relief. He gave up four hits, one walk, and stuck out five. Having Bair, Lopez and Hernandez gave Sparky a ton of flexibility, knowing he had three quality arms in the pen.
July 27, 1984 Tigers 9, Red Sox 1 (69-30)
Another masterful outing by Dan Petry led the way for the Tigers. Dan went the distance in a six hitter, and it wasn’t until the ninth inning, when Rich Gedman hit a solo shot, that a run crossed the plate.
Chet Lemon hit his fourteenth homer, and Lance Parrish his 21st. The Tigers scattered nine hits, and they were all by different players.
July 27, 1984 Red Sox 4, Tigers 0 (69-31)
Bob Ojeda turned the table on the Tigers as he actually outdid Dan Petry in the earlier game. Ojeda pitched a three hitter, striking out five.
Glenn Abbot got shelled, lasting only 3 1/3. He gave up 10 hits and four runs. The bullpen shut the Red Sox down, but the Tigers couldn’t figure out Ojeda. Berenguer, Monge, Bair, and Lopez all pitched shut out innings (2 2/3 by Berenguer).
The prospect of a 70-30 start would have been nice, but the Tigers fell just short. Another loss by the Blue Jays put the Tigers up by a season high twelve games though, so the team had to be feeling good about itself.
July 19. 1984 Tigers 9, Rangers 2 (63-29)
A three run second inning put the Tigers up for good as they racked up nine runs on thirteen hits, chasing starter, and future four time 20 game winner Dave Stewart out in the fifth inning.
Lou Whitaker went three for five, Ruppert Jones went four for four, and Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson had homeruns.
Milt Wilcox threw a nice game,, going 7 1/3 and giving up only two runs. The usual suspects, Willie Hernandez and Aurilio Lopez finished the game out.
July 15, 1984 Tigers 6, Twins 2 (60-28)
Dave Rozema pitched six strong innings and Aurilio Lopez pitched 3 2/3 innings of one hit ball to earn his eleventh save of the season. The two pitchers each had five strikeouts.
Dave Rozema had some nice years for the Tigers, but never reached his full potential. In 1977, he was the Tigers Rookie of the Year after going 15-7 with a 3.09 ERA. The fact that he struck out only 92 batters in 218 1/3 innings sort of gave everyone a reflection that this first season might have been an anamoly. He finished eighth in the Cy Young voting that year, but he’d never reach double digits in wins again.
By 1984, Dave was near the end of his career. He did have a fine season, as all the Tigers seemed to do that year, playing the role of spot starter and long reliever for the Tigers. He pitched 101 innings, and racked up an impressive ERA of 3.74.
Lou Whitaker went four for five, and Darrell Evans hit had three RBIs and a homerun. Lemon, Bergman, and Howard Johnson all had two hits.
July 13, 1984 Tigers 5, Twins 3 (58-28)
Jack Morris and the usual suspects in the pen, Aurilio Lopez and Willie Hernandez, kept the Tigers in this one just long enough for the bats to get going and win the game for them.
Jack Morris pitched one of his better games in a while, going 7 1/3, walking none, and giving up only eight hits and three runs (one earned, two unearned).
The game was saved by Kirk Gibson, who threw Tim Teufel out at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth (Thanks again to Sparky’s Bless You Boys, this doesn’t show up in the boxscores). Then in the top half of the eleventh, Lou Whitaker hit a two run in the park homerun to put the Tigers up for good. Willie Hernandez improved to 5-0, and Aurilio Lopez earned his tenth save.
July 6, 1984 Rangers 5, Tigers 3 (56-26)
Juan Berenguer only lasted 2 2/3, giving up five hits, two walks, and three runs. The three runs in the third were most of what the Rangers needed to win this, as the Tigers only scored three runs, and it wasn’t until the eighth inning on a three run shot by Lance Parrish. Future Tiger manager Larry Parrish hit his thirteenth homer of the season, going three for four.
Berenguer dropped to 4-7, and Aurilio Lopez pitched 4 1/3 innings of relief. The only other Tiger notable was Chet Lemon, who went two for four.
July 5, 1984 Tigers 7, Rangers 4 (56-25)
It’s nice to see the Tigers pulled things together on my birthday. I wished I would have remember this one, because it was an impressive comeback.
Down 4-1 in the ninth, the Tigers scored six runs on five hits to pull it out. What was even more impressive was that they scored all six runs with two outs. Lou Whitaker had a two run single. Then Alan Trammell got a one run single. The big blow was by the Tiger’s Mr. Clutch, Kirk Gibson. He finished off the Rangers with a three run shot. Knuckleballer Charlie Hough took the loss and went the distance.
Dan Petry was hit hard, but the pen once again shut the opposing team down to allow the Tigers a chance to come back. Doug Bair pitched 1 1/3 innings of no hit ball. Aurilio Lopez threw 1 2/3 innings of one hit ball to improve to 7-0. And Willie Hernandez got the final out of the game to earn his 15th save.
56-25 at the half way point. They were on pace to win 112. They didn’t quite make that, but a solid first half. If the Yankees were to win their next five, they’d still only be 55-26 at the break.
June 29, 1984 Twins 5, Tigers 3 (53-21)
Jack Morris got hit hard, giving up 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Doug Bair pitched 3 1/3 strong innings of two hit ball to allow the Tigers a chance to come back, but it was too much to overcome as they hit the ball (11 hits), but couldn’t get men across the plate.
Lou Whitaker went three for five, and Lance Parrish had a two run double.
June 29, 1984 Tigers 7, Twins 5 (54-21)
Another win for the bullpen. It’s amazing how game in and game out, the pen allowed this team to get back into games.
Milt Wilcox gave up five runs through five innings, allowing the Twins to take a one run lead. But the usual combo of Aurilio Lopez and Willie Hernandez slammed the door shut tight to let the Tigers come back and win this one. Lopez went 2 1/3, and Hernandez went 1 2/3 to improve to 4-0.
Kirk Gibson had a big day, hitting two homers and driving in four runs. Ruppert Jones and Chet Lemon hit solo shots.
June 24, 1984 Tigers 7, Brewers 1 (52-18)
Jack Morris had missed a couple of starts due to a sore elbow, but the rest must have done him some good, as he bounced back nicely. He’d finish with six innings of one hit ball to improve to 12-3, and Aurilio Lopez would pitch the final three to earn his ninth save. In all, the Brewers only had three baserunners.
Lance Parrish went three for four and hit his thirteenth homer of the year, and Ruppert Jones, lumber trance and all, hit his third, a three run shot in the sixth.
With the win, the Tigers expanded their lead to 8 1/2 games heading into a road series with the Yankees. A nice cushion that would slowly get larger over time as the Blue Jays hit a rough patch.
June 21, 1984 Brewers 4, Tigers 3 (49-18)
Don Sutton started the game with 4 1/3 innings of no hit ball as he and two relievers combined for a four hitter. The Tigers made a late inning run in the seventh by scoring three, two of which from Larry Herndon’s first homer of the year. From that point on, Rollie Fingers pitched 2 1/3 innings of one hit ball to shut down the Tigers the rest of the way.
Other then Herndon’s two run shot, there’s not a lot to note in this one. Juan Berenguer pitched fair, and Sid Monge and Aurilio Lopez combined for 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball to give the Tigers a chance to come back, but it wasn’t to be.
June 19, 1984 Tigers 7, Yankees 6 (48-17)
This was another classic example of the pen bailing out the Tigers once again. With starter Carl Willis getting hit hard, Doug Bair got out of a bases loaded jam to lessen the damage. He then went on to throw two more shutout inning before giving it up to Aurilio Lopez, who shut the Yankees down for 1 1/3 before giving it up to Willie Hernandez, who finished things off for his twelth save. In all, the bull pen would throw 4 2/3 innings of no hit ball (two unearned runs would score on six walks though).
Larry Herndon drove in the tying run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, and Rusty Kuntz followed it up with a two run single to give the Tigers the lead for good. Lance Parrish and Don Mattingly both hit their eleventh homer of the season.
The Blue Jays finally lost, allowing the Tigers to extend their lead to 6 1/2 games. Another 41,000 fans came out to see the Tigers.
June 17, 1984 Tigers 7, Brewers 4 (47-16)
Dave Rozema improved to 3-0 with a solid five innings of four hit ball. Aurilio Lopez inherited a five run lead, and although he wasn’t stellar, picked up his eighth save by going four innings to finish the game off.
The Tigers did the bulk of their damage in the fifth when they scored five runs. Tom Brookens had a two run triple, and Barbero Garbey scored by stealing home. Chet Lemon led the hit parade by going three for five while driving in two runs.
The Tigers headed home with three straight wins a struggling Yankees team still six games ahead of Toronto. The race at this point was pretty much a two team one, as Baltimore had tapered of to 11 1/2 back (still a better record then the division leading California Angels).
June 12, 1984 Blue Jays 12, Tigers 3 (44-15)
Jack Morris got shelled, plain and simple, and the pen followed suit with some equally bad pitching. This would be the most runs the Tigers would give up in a game all season (the twelve runs would eventually be matched in August, but not surpassed).
Three innings, eight hits, and six runs was the final line for Morris. By far his worst outing of the season. Sid Monge, who was picked up the day before, pitched four innings and gave up three runs. Even the reliable Aurilio Lopez gave up three runs in an eighth inning that didn’t mean too much.
Tiger’s hitting stars included Lou Whitaker, who went three for four with two RBIs. John Grubb went two for four, and Howard Johnson went two for three and scored twice. Chet Lemon was the only other player to get a hit.
June 9, 1984 Orioles 4, Tigers 0 (41-14)
For the second time in a week, Mike Flanagan was too much for the Tigers as he pitched nine shutout innings, walking nobody, and only giving up six singles and a double.
A couple of firsts in this one. Aurilio Lopez got shelled. He gave up three hits and a walk while only getting one out. He was relieved by Carl Willis, who made his major league debut and pitched 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball. Starter Juan Berenguer was erratic, giving up four walks, but striking out six in 5 1/3 innings.
Nothing much to report on the hitting front. Barbero Garbey went two for four, and Chet Lemon had the only extra base hit of the game, a ninth inning double.
June 6, 1984 Blue Jays 6, Tigers 3 (39-13)
The Tigers losing ways went on, as they had now dropped 8 of 12 since their fantastic start. Dan Petry got shelled, giving up 10 hits in four innings, and the Jays had five runs on the board before the Tigers got one across the plate.
Aurilio Lopez pitched four strong innings of relief to keep the Tigers in it, but like yesterday, they couldn’t get it done with men on base as they left 10 men stranded throughout the game. Venezuelan native Luis Leal improved to 6-0 for the Jays, which was impressive for a man with 58 career wins.
Lou Whitaker went three for four, and Howard Johnson went two for three.
At this stage of the season, the Tigers lead now stood at 3 1/2 games. They had basically blown their lead. We all know how this story ends, but at this point, there was some geniune concern. Fortunately for the Tigers, they’d go on a run, and this would be the closest the Jays would ever get.
May 30, 1984 Tigers 2, A’s 1 (37-9)
Big players come up in big ways, and two big players came up big in this one.
To set the stage, Juan Berenguer was cruising along. Two hits through four innings. Then the wheels came off the wagon. An error and three walks led Oakland to the go ahead run in the fifth. Then with the bases loaded, Captain hook was true to form and brought in his horse from the pen, Willie Hernandez. With two outs and an inherited bases loaded, got Mike Davis to ground out to end the inning and stop the damage.
The Tigers would answer immediately in the sixth inning. Barbero Garbey tripled to lead off the inning. And then with one out and Garbey at third, future Tigers Tony Phillips made an error that allowed Garbey to score and tie up the game.
Hernandez would shutdown the A’s through the eighth, and in the top half of the ninth, with one out, Kirk Gibson, known for his clutch hits, jacked a solo shot to give the Tigers the lead for good. Aurilio Lopez finished the game to earn his seventh save.
May 29, 1984 A’s 8, Tigers 5 (36-9)
Oakland really pummelled Milt Wilcox, who dropped to 6-2. By the end of the fourth inning, he’d be gone, and the score was 8-1. Not a whole lot to say about this one. Chet Lemon hit his ninth homer, and only one other Tiger, Barbero Garbey, had an extra base hit.
And not to get too far away from the 1984 season, but I’ve never been a big fan of the save statistic. I wrote about it and John Hiller in a past column, but in this game, Oakland’s closer, Bill Caudill, earned his tenth save of the season. Oakland was a sub-.500 team, but using the benchmark statistic for closers, you could make the arguement that Caudill was more effective then either Willie Hernandez and Aurilio Lopez, both of whom had a lower save total.
In fact, Caudill would end the season with 36 saves, four more then Cy Young and MVP winning Willie Hernandez. Interestlingly enough, two relievers finished in the top three of the MVP balloting in 1984. Willie of course won it, but Dan Quisenberry came in third. They also finished first and second in the Cy Young. As best as I can tell, 1984 was the only time relievers were as represented at the top of the ballots for either award.
May 27, 1984 Mariners 6, Tigers 1 (35-8)
Not a whole lot went right in this one. Dan Petry got shelled, giving up nine hits and four runs in four innings. Aurelio Lopez had his worst outing of the year as well. On top of all that, the Tigers had ten hits, but only managed to score one, on a solo shot by Chet Lemon.
This was the first three game losing streak of the season, and the first time the Tigers were swept. At this point, the Tigers next 40 games would result in a 20-20 record, a pretty long stretch of mediocrity for a team that was so good for the first quarter of a season.
May 22, 1984 Tigers 3, Angels 1 (33-5)
It’s amazing how the great teams get exactly what they need to win. A few games ago, the Tiger’s needed a five run first inning to beat Oakland. Good starts would garner them a sweep, despite some late inning comeback attempts.
And things didn’t change here. If your offense only scores three runs, you’re not likely to win the game. But Juan Berenguer and Aurilio Lopez combined for a five hitter to give the Tiger’s their 33rd win of the season.
Berenguer struck out nine batters in six innings to get his third win of the season. He’d walk three and give up three walks, but only one Angel, Rod Carew on a solo shot, would cross the plate. Aurilio Lopez would shut out the Angels the rest of the way to lead the Tigers to victory.
41,000 fans would come out to see the Angels play the Tigers in Anaheim. On a Tuesday no less. And with the win, the Tigers won their 15th straight on the road, one shy of the AL record.
May 19, 1984 Tigers 5, Oakland 4 (31-5)
This is a game that almost got away. Detroit got off to a comfortable 5-1 lead, and almost let things slip through their fingers. Aurelio Lopez gave up a solo shot to Dwayne Murphy in the ninth to cut the lead to one, but held on the rest of the way to earn his fifth save. Jack Morris had a rough outing, walking six and giving up eight hits in 7 1/3, but he got through some jams to earn his eighth victory.
Lou Whitaker and Darrell Evans drove in two runs a piece (one of Lou’s came off of a solo shot), and Kirk Gibson scored twice. Alan Trammell stole his 12th base, which at that point was one more steal then what Rickey Henderson, the eventual league leader, had stolen. The Tigers scored all five of their runs in five seperate innings.
May 16, 1984 Tigers 10, Mariners 1 (29-5)
The Mariners never had a chance in this one. Five Tiger runs in the first put this one out of reach. Eight different Tigers drove in runs, and John Grubb hit his third homerun of the season.
Milt Wilcox improved to 5-0, pitching six innings of four hit ball. Bair, Hernandez, and Lopez all pitched a shutout inning a piece to finish the game up.
May 14, 1984 Tigers 7, Mariners 5 (27-5)
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to get back to their winning ways. They struggled in this one, but two runs in the bottom of the eighth finished off the Mariners. Alan Trammell followed up two hitless games with a three for five outing, which included his fourth homer of the year. Rusty Kuntz drove in the go ahead run, and went three for four with three runs.
The pitching wasn’t so great. Dan Petry struggled through five innings, but held the Mariners to three runs. Doug Bair, who had been rock solid and had a 1.174 ERA in 6 relief appearances going into the game gave up two runs in only two innings of work. Aurelio Lopez did the job though, as he shut down the Mariners in the final two innings and picked up his fourth win.
May 9, 1984 Tigers 3, Royals 1 (25-4)
This one was all about pitching. Dan Petry threw 6 2/3 strong innings before walking two batters in the seventh. Sparky then handed the ball to Aurelio Lopez, and Senior Smoke simply did the job. He got out of the jam in the seventh, and walked only one batter in 2 1/3 innings to completely shut down the Royals the rest of the way. En route, he’d strike out four, and garner his fourth save of the season.
A lot of winning championships is catching magic in a bottle. If you look at most of the “surprise” championship teams, you have players having career years. Aurilio Lopez was having one of those years, and was an integral part of the Tiger’s championship run. He set a career high in innings pitched, won 10 games, and saved 14. And this was in a season where another reliever on the same team won the MVP and the Cy Young. Lopez basically gave Sparky a closer quality pitcher from both the right (Lopez) and left (Hernandez) side.
With the win, the Tigers tied the 1955 Dodgers mark for the best start in history. a mark which I believe still holds.
May 5, 1984 Tigers 6, Indians 5 (21-4)
Even the good teams have bad overall games where one players rises above the rest and carries everyone on his back. And that’s exactly what Chet Lemon did in this one. He got the Tigers off to a good start with a two run single in the first inning. Then he’d score runs in the fourth and the sixth innings (the sixth inning run tied the game). Finally, in the eighth, he hit a solo homer to give the Tigers an insurance run that they’d end up needing. In all, he went four for four, scored three, and drove in three. He had four of the Tiger’s ten hits, and either scored or drove in five of the Tigers six total runs.
Sparky’s fourth starter by committee pulled together another win, as Glenn Abbott would pitch 5 1/3 decent innings to garner his second win of the season. Aurelio Lopez got the two inning save.
April 27, 1984 Indians 8, Tigers 4 19 Innings (16-2)
It took nearly six hours for this game to play it’s course, but the Tigers seven game winning streak came to an end as they burned the midnight oil in a 19 inning affair.
After the Indians batted in the top half of the second inning, the score was even at 3-3. Seven innings later, the game still stood at 3-3. Both the Indians and the Tigers scored a run in the 10th, and then it wasn’t until the Indians scored 4 unearned runs in the nineteenth inning that this one was put to bed (literally).
Another stand out performance by Aurilio Lopez, as he threw 4 2/3 shutout innings to follow up his 2 2/3 perfect innings the day before. He kept the Tigers in the game, but Glenn Abbott, who had shut the Indians down for four innings by himself, committed two errors in the nineteenth which helped the Indians score four runs to give the Indians the lead for good.
In all, the Tigers would commit four errors, leading to six unearned runs. The Tigers only had one extra basehit, a double by Whitaker, despite having 66 official at bats. And possibly the oddest line of the night was Andre Thorton, the Indians DH, who went 0 for 9.
April 26, 1984 Tigers 7, Rangers 5 (16-1)
Neither starter was effective in this one. Future Tiger Frank Tanana gave up six runs in less then four innings, and Dave Rozema was just marginally better as he gave up five runs in 4 1/3. Once the starters were pulled, things really calmed down, as only the Tigers scored one run in the final four innings of this one. Doug Bair pitched two shutout innings to notch his second relief win of the year, and Aurelio Lopez threw 2 2/3 perfect innings to garner his second save.
Whitaker, Trammell, Herndon, and Lemon all had multi-hit games, and Lance Parrish homered in his third consecutive game, boosting his season total to five.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 16-1 on the season, and had a six game lead in the AL East. Everyone points to their 35-5 start, which is simply an incredible start, but it’s only after you go back and see what they actually did throughout those first couple of months can you appreciate what this team accomplished.
April 24, 1984 – Game 1 – Tigers 6, Twins 5 (13-1)
Jack Morris had his worst outing of the season so far, but managed to walk away with his fourth straight victory. He went the distance, giving up five runs on seven hits and five walks. But as was typical of this magical season, it was just enough as the Tigers won in dramatic fashion.
The Tigers entered the bottom of the ninth down 5-3. Kirk Gibson led off the inning with a triple. John Grubb then reached base on a fielder’s choice (and would leave the game as Rusty Kuntz would run for him). Dave Bergman then drove in Gibson with an RBI single, cutting the lead to one rune.
Then, the wheels really came off the wagon as relief pitcher Ron Davis would put one in the dirt, allowing the tying run to score on a wild pitch, and moving Bergman over to second. Howard Johnson grounded out to third, and with one out, Chet Lemon was given the intentional pass. Lance Parrish then lined out to second base.
So with two outs, and runners on first and second, Lou Whitaker singled, and drove in Bergman to win the game. Tigers Win 6-5!!!
April 24, 1984 – Game 2 – Tigers 4, Twins 3 (13-1)
Lance Parrish hit a three run homer in the fifth inning, and Aurelio Lopez shut the Twins down in the final three innings in the back end of the double header. Starter Dan Petry was forced to leave the game with a sore shoulder in the third.
Glenn Abbott took over in the fourth and gave up two runs in the top half of the sixth, but Parrish answered in the next inning with his three run shot.
Aurelio Lopez got the three inning save, as he pitched three shutout innings, giving up only one hit and two walks, while striking out three.
April 8, 1984 – Tigers 7, White Sox 3 (5-0)
Dave Rozema pitched four strong innings, but had to leave the game when his arm tightened up. He left Aurelio Lopez with a one run lead, and summarily slammed the door, giving up only one run (Harold Baines home run), one hit, and striking out four in four strong innings.
The Tigers got to Tom Seaver early as well, scoring five runs in the first five innings. Kirk Gibson hit his second homer of the season. Tram stole his fourth base. Barbero Garbey doubled twice and drove in three runs.
I’m not sure why, but this game went three hours and seventeen minutes. Back then, that was a pretty long game.
And one odd quirk about the 1984 season is the Tigers played in four home openers. They opened the Metrodome, Comiskey, Fenway and then of course Tiger Stadium. They rained on everyone’s parade that year.
April 3, 1984 – Detroit 8, Twins 1 (1-0)
Jack Morris was about as impressive as a pitcher could be in an opening day appearance, pitching seven innings, while giving up only one run on five hits. All while striking out eight. The Tigers drew first blood in the third with a one run double by Howard Johnson, and a one run single by Tram. After scoring these two runs, the Tigers would never look back, as the only dent the Twins would be able to make was in the second half of the inning, when Twins put one on the board.
And what would become an trend all season, Aurelio Lopez pitched a perfect eighth, and Willie (Guillermo) Hernandez pitched a perfect ninth. It wouldn’t always be those same innings, but those two guys were the anchor of a great pen, and you’ll be seeing their names pop up quite often.
April 4, 1984 – Day Off (1-0)
April 5, 1984 – Tigers 7, Twins 3 (2-0)
Dan Petry gave up the lead early in this one (two runs in the second), but the Tigers bounced back by scoring one in the third and three in the fourth. Petry calmed, and ended up going seven. Willie Hernandez then did the job by pitching perfect eight and nine innings. Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson led the way on offense. Both hit homeruns (Gibby’s was a three run shot to put the Tigers up for good in the fourth), and Tram went three for four.
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