Paying Tribute to the Greatest Tiger Team of My Generation
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A part of just about any championship team includes a career year or two. Juan Berenguer fell into that mix. Berenguer’s career spanned fifteen years and was pretty unspectacular. He played for seven different teams, and went from being a starter, to a spot starter/middle reliever, to a reliever, doing well but not exceptional everywhere he went. His best role seemed to be as a reliever, when he pitched for Twins and helped them win their championship in 1987.
While he didn’t log an inning in the post season, Juan Berenguer started 27 games for Sparky and won 11 of them. He looked great at times, but also took his share of beatings. But in the end, he had one of the better strikeout rates on the team, and was one of Sparky’s hardest throwers.
Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Innings Pitched 168 1/3
Pitching Runs Above Replacement 43
Berenguer gave up his share of walks, but he also was pretty good at not letting the ball go over the fence. All in all, he gave the Tigers a nice option as a number four starter, and in my opinion, would mop the floor with Fred Norman if they went head to head.
Scorecard – 1975 Reds 6, 1984 Tigers 6
Also, a quick postscript. Berenguer pitched in four of the five games for the Twins in the ALCS, taking the Tigers to task. I’ve never completely forgiven him for this.
September 29, 1984 Tigers 11, Yankees 3 (104-57)
With a strong offensive performance, and with only one game left in the season, the 1984 Detroit Tigers won their 104th game, setting the franchise record. The game was actually close for a while, but with the game tied 1-1, the Tigers scored five runs in the sixth to bust the game open. They added five more in the ninth to seal the game up.
Juan Berenguer pitched another nice game to improve to 11-10. He went six innings, giving up only one run on two hits. His six walks were a concern, but he pitched out out of a bases loaded jam in the second and the third innings to walk away with a winning record on the season. Roger Mason finished the game off, going three innings and earning his first career save.
It was a historic day for the franchise, and fitting for what most people feel was the greatest Tiger’s season of all time.
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 16, 1984 Tigers 8, Blue Jays 3 (95-54)
This one was over relatively quickly as the Tigers rallied for seven runs in the first three innings. Six different Tigers drove in runs, and seven different Tigers scored. Marty Castillo, Tom Brookens and Larry Herndon all hit homers for the Tigers.
Four Tiger pitchers combined to hold the Jays to six hits and three runs (two earned). Juan Berenguer pitched five solid innings to earn his ninth win.
The Tigers took the series and basically won the division with two nice performances. They drew over 135,000 fans for the three game series, as Tigers fans everywhere were celebrating.
September 10, 1984 Orioles 3, Tigers 1 (92-52)
A good outing by Juan Berenguer went to waste, as he pitched seven solid innings.
The Blue Jays matched the Tigers by losing, so the magic number was now eight. The Tigers could split half of their remaining eighteen games and it wouldn’t matter if the Jays won every one of theirs, it was that close to being over.
September 5, 1984 Tigers 1, Orioles 0 (89-51)
Orioles starter Mike Flanagan pitched a fine game, going the distance and giving up only six hits and one unearned run. Unfortunately for him, Juan Berenguer was just a little bit better, as he pitched 7 1/3 innings of two hit shutout ball. Willie Hernandez came in to finish the game after that, and he earned his twenty eighth save in the process.
The Jays lost, so the Tigers increased their lead to 8 1/2 games. With a day off before facing the Blue Jays in three game series, the Tigers magic number stood at fifteen.
September 1, 1984 A’s 7, Tigers 5 (87-49)
This one was over pretty quickly, as Juan Berenguer couldn’t escape the first inning. By the end of the first, he’d be gone, and the Tigers would be down 6-0. Doug Bair and Bill Scherrer pitched 7 1/3 great innings of relief, holding Oakland to one run the rest of the way, but the deficit was just too much to overcome.
Lou Whitaker and Rusty Kuntz both drove in two runs, and Barbaro Garbey scored twice. but Chuck Rainey did his best Willie Hernandez impersonation, and held the Tigers scoreless in 3 1/3 innings of relief.
Toronto won, so the lead now stood at 8 1/2 games. A nice cushion, but I’m sure after losing four straight, Sparky and the boys hardly felt secure.
August 28, 1984 Tigers 5, Mariners 4 (87-45)
Another great comeback win for the Tigers. With the game tied 1-1 going into the bottom half of the seventh, Juan Berenguer had runners on first and second with two outs, when Spike Owen reached base on a Howard Johnson error. The Mariners went on to score three unearned runs as a result of the mishap before newly acquired lefthander Bill Scherrer came in to get the final out.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to bounce back though, because in the top of the eighth, Ruppert Jones led off with a double. Dave Bergman then singled to leave runners at first and third. Barbaro Garbey flew out before Lou Whitaker drove in a run on a sacrafice fly. Then with Bergman on first, Alan Trammell hit a two run two out homer to tie the game.
Then in the top of the ninth, Darrell Evans got a two out single. Rusty Kuntz ran for Evans, who moved to second on a wild pitch by reliever Mike Stanton. John Grubb struck out, but with two outs, Ruppert Jones drove in Kuntz with a double to take the lead.
Willie Hernandez once again did his thing, as he pitched the eighth and ninth, giving up only one hit to improve to 8-2.
The day before, Bill Lajoie pulled the trigger and got Sparky another left handed arm in the pen. For cash and a player to be named later (eventually being Carl Willis), the Tigers acquired Bill Scherrer from the Reds. He’d give the Tigers a much needed extra option, as he ended up throwing 19 innings with an ultralow 1.89 ERA.
August 22, 1984 Tigers 11, A’s 4 (84-44)
For the third straight game, the Tigers scored into double figures on the Oakland pitching staff. Barbaro Garbey, Alan Trammell, Marty Castillo, and Doug Baker all had two hits, and the Tigers scored all eleven runs without a homerun. The Detroit Tigers did steal six bases though.
Juan Berenguer pitched seven quality innings, giving up five hits and one run.
With the win, the Tigers extended their lead to 12 1/2 games, with only 34 left. At this point, the playoffs were just about in the bag. The only question on Tiger fan’s minds was who they were going to play. The Minnesota Twins held a 5 1/2 game lead over the Angels and Royals at this stage of the season.
August 18, 1984 Tigers 4, Mariners 3 (81-43)
This current winning streak was the beginning of the end of any chance the Blue Jays would have to catch up to the Detroit Tigers. With the win, the Tigers extended their lead to eleven games, with only a month and half left in the season.
Juan Berenguer had probably his best start of the season, throwing 8 1/3, giving up only three hits, two earned runs (three total), while striking out twelve. Two of the three runs came in the top of the ninth, but Willie Hernandez slammed the door shut by getting the last two batters out to earn his twenty sixth save.
The Tigers were held to only five hits, but one of those was a three run shot by Kirk Gibson. The homerun was the twentieth of the season, making this the first of five consecutive seasons that he’d hit twenty homers and steal twenty bases.
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 5, 1984 Royals 5, Tigers 4 (72-37)
For the first time during the 109 games of the season, Willie Hernandez lost a game. A two run double in the top of the ninth by Dane Iorg broke a 3-3 tie as Bret Saberhagen takes the win in relief, and Dan Quisenberry notched his 29th save.
Larry Herndon had two hits and drove in two.
August 5, 1984 Royals 4, Tigers 0 (72-38)
Whether it was being tired, or good pitching, the Tigers couldn’t quite get going. Charlie Liebrandt held Detroit to five hits, and Dan Quisenberry pitched the ninth to complete the combined shutout.. Alan Trammell had the only multi-hit game, going two for three.
Juan Berenguer threw a fine game, going the distance and giving up four runs on eight hits. But it wasn’t enough. With the Royals sweeping, the Tigers now stood a meer eight games over Toronto. What looked like a run away was slowly turning into a pennant race again.
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 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 1, 1984 Twins 9, Tigers 0 (55-22)
A very tough day for the home team, as the Tigers got beat in just about any way that you can imagine. Frank Viola pitched a four hit shutout, and Juan Berenguer got roughed up in his five innings of work.
Probably the oddest thing about this game was backup outfielder Rusty Kuntz, who ended his career in 1985 with a career .236 batting average in 441 career at-bats, was in the leadoff spot, probably giving Lou Whitaker a night off against the lefty Viola.
The Tigers had three different four game losing streaks during the 1984 campaign, and this was the beginning of the first one.
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 16, 1984 Tigers 6, Brewers 0 (46-16)
Juan Berenguer was very impressive, throwing what would be his only complete game shutout of the season. He pitched a five hitter, and never gave up more then one hit in any given inning.
Darrell Evans had the hot bat, hitting a three run homer in the sixth, and adding another RBI with a sacrafice fly. Dave Bergman went three for four, and Ruppert Jones tacked on two hits, one of which was was second homer of the season.
The Blue Jays had also won their last two since the Tiger’s series, and remained stuck at six games back. Still enough to worry about.
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 4, 1984 Tigers 6, Blue Jays 3 (39-11)
A couple of big blasts by some unlikely players gave the Tigers round one of the season series with the Blue Jays. Starter Juan Berenguer pitched a decent but not great game, giving up three runs through 6 2/3. Willie Hernandez was the pitching star though. Even though he was brought in with a three run deficit, unheard of for a closer in this day, he got the Tigers out of a jam in the critical seventh inning. He ended up pitching three innings of shutout ball to help the Tigers earn the win.
The reason the seventh inning was critical was, in the bottom half, the Tigers came back. Third basemen Howard Johnson tied the game up with one swing of the bat by hitting a three run homer. The game would be tied at the end of nine, and in the bottom of the tenth, the Tigers struck again.
In Sparky Anderson’s book “Bless You Boys,” Sparky Anderson called it the greatest at bat in his life. Dave Bergman, the Tigers role player/backup firstbasemen came to bat with runners on first and second base and two outs. He worked to a full count against Roy Lee Howell, then according to Sparky, fouled off seven straight pitches. Then on the 13th pitch, Bergman hit what I remember as his most memorable homer of his career into the upper deck in right field.
Great relief pitching and timely hitting. The Tigers widened their lead to 5 1/2 games over the Jays, but they’d still have three more games left just in this series.
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 26, 1984 Mariners 9, Tigers 5 (35-7)
This one was over early. Starter Juan Berenguer, who would suffer from inconsistency throughout the season, could only manage to get one out before getting pulled. In all he gave up four runs. Three of the four Tigers relievers gave up runs in what could only be termed as a blowout.
The Tigers fought back with three in the top half of the ninth, but they couldn’t manage to pull off the nearly impossible. Kirk Gibson hit his sixth homerun, and Rusty Kuntz hit his second.
This had to be one of the oddest series of the year. After coming off of the high of the 35-5 start, the Tigers would get swept in Seattle (as we’ll see the finale tomorrow). And in all three games, they beat them pretty handily. Seattle had gotten off to a fair start (20-24 at the beginning), but they were still a sub-.500 team.
Attendace was also unusual for this weekend series. The Friday and Sunday games drew 15,000 and 12,000, but the Saturday game drew 41,000. Maybe they were giving something away in Seattle for that Saturday game.
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 7, 1984 Tigers 10, Royals 3 (23-4)
This one was actually close through five innings, and then the Tigers bat heated up for eight runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Chet Lemon had another great game, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs, and Alan Trammell went three for five with two runs. At this point, Lemon had 27 RBIs in 27 games, and Tram was hitting .373 (Information provided by Sparky Anderson’s “Bless You Boys”).
Juan Berenguer pitched into the seventh inning, and Doug Bair nailed the door shut the rest of the way. Another day, another win.
May 2, 1984 Red Sox 5, Tiger 4 (19-3)
Ten stranded baserunners cost the Tigers in this one, as they dropped a nail biter to the Red Sox. Boston got off to a quick start with Dwight Evans two run shot off of Juan Berenguer. In the third, Jim Rice would hit another two run shot, to put the Red Sox in the lead 4-0. The Tigers tried to make a last ditch effort in the ninth, when they cut the score to 5-4, but Kirk Gibson (who went 4 for 5) was stranded at third when Darrell Evans grounded out, and John Grubb struck out to end the game. No magic on this day.
In all, the Detroit Tigers outhit the Red Sox in this on 13-8. But in the end, the Tigers walked away with their third loss of the season.
April 22, 1984 Tigers 9, White Sox 1 (12-1)
A Kirk Gibson first inning two run homerun was all the Tigers would end up needing in this, but they got a lot more. In total, the Tigers would score nine runs on eighteen hits. Five different Tigers had multi-hit games, including a 4 for 4 outing by Chet Lemon. Six different Tigers would score, and five different Tigers would drive in a runs. A good all around team effort.
Juan Berenguer was exceptional in his first start of the season. He pitched seven shutout innings, struck out seven, and only gave up two hits and a walk. He had a no-hitter going into the fifth, but gave up a single to Kalamazoo native Mike Squires. Mike would also make his pitching debut, and finale in this one, getting the final out in the eighth inning.
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