By Matt Snyder
Miguel Cabrera's home run. Cabrera's RBI single. Max Scherzer's solid outing. Jose Valverde's near-colossal meltdown in the ninth inning.
What do those things all have in common? They're likely to get more attention than Joaquin Benoit's outing, for one. If you only look at the box score, Benoit's line doesn't look very good, either, due to him allowing a Curtis Granderson home run to open the eighth inning. Make no mistake about it, though, Benoit was a major player Sunday, just as he has been for the overwhelming majority of the season.
In the offseason, the Tigers signed Benoit to a three-year, $16.5 million contract. That's a pretty big commitment to a guy who only throws one inning at a time, especially since he was 33 and coming off a season that appeared an outlier when compared to the rest of his career (his career ERA was 4.79 before 2010, for example). By the middle of May, the deal looked like it might be a mistake, too. After a disastrous May 16 outing, Benoit had three losses, a 7.98 ERA and 1.66 WHIP.
|New York-Detroit, Game 2|
Sunday, Benoit was given quite the task. He entered the game in the seventh inning -- he usually only pitches in the eighth -- with runners on first and second with no outs. It was a 4-0 Tigers lead at the time, but one swing of the bat would have made it 4-3 (and we now know that the Tigers would only hold on to win 5-3) and given the Yankees all kinds of momentum. Benoit got a fly ball out off Russell Martin's bat and then struck out both Eric Chavez and Derek Jeter to end the inning with no damage done. Benoit then took the hill for the eighth, even though he hadn't thrown two full innings since Aug. 30. The Granderson homer to open the inning didn't phase Benoit, who went on to retire Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
Most headlines will look elsewhere, but the work done by Benoit Sunday was one of the biggest reasons the Tigers won the game. Just as he's been doing since the middle of May, he got the job done when it counted most -- even if it was in the seventh inning this time around.
More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Yankees-Tigers series | 2011 playoffs
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