Growing up, we tend to look to athletes as role models. Sometimes, if our fathers are emotionally unavailable, we are still looking for those role models well into our twenties.
So when the Tigers acquired right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer in 2010, I knew he was the guy for me. He was kind of goofy, lanky, not Justin Verlander, and had different colored eyes. He was about to grow into an ace before my eyes, which are brown.
Scherzer sat atop of a rotation that included Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister. This dominant team won four straight American League Central titles but could never bring home the big cheese. I still occasionally have nightmares about David Ortiz‘s grand slam in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS. I do not like to think about these times, because I get a glimpse into the future, where my grandson is tweeting “win it for my grandpa, who never saw the Tigers win a World Series.” But I digress.
Max eventually packed his bags for Washington DC, which was ironic considering him leaving the Tigers was my own personal Benghazi. He would spray chocolate sauce on Bryce Harper and look into the camera to say, “Your conspiracy theory was right Ryan — the Tigers clubhouse is not a fun environment and bad chemistry was a contributing factor to our demise.” I knew it!
Which leads us to last night. The Nationals had hosted Detroit for a three-game series, and the rubber match came down to Scherzer vs. Jordan Zimmermann, also facing his old team. It was deemed must-see TV, and the Nationals were even able to sell ad space on their green screen behind home plate.
Yep, folks, the old girlfriend was back in town. We had gained a few pounds since we saw her last, and are just generally worse off, but she was, for whatever reason, still interested in letting us know what we were missing. We tried to be like, hey, we’re doing alright, we have Mike Pelfrey … when really everyone knew we were crying inside.
Max absolutely dominated the Tigers hitters, reaching an MLB-tying 20 strikeouts over a complete game. He almost had as many swings and misses as he did balls, which also describes my life. Max did not discriminate and struck out Anthony Gose, Miguel Cabrera, and everyone in between. There were more Ks than a Trump rally and three runs were enough to make the Nationals great again after the previous night’s loss. With everyone on their feet, the electric stadium awaited a 21st strikeout for the 27th out. Brad Ausmus even got caught up in the action, forgetting to pinch hit James McCann for Nick Castellanos. Alas, Max would fall short (see: 2013 ALCS) and McCann grounded out to third for the final out.
The night was bittersweet, but I couldn’t help but be happy for my old answer to “who’s your Tiger?” It was one of those games that reminded you how baseball can break your heart. Which is fine, because it’s stupid and I don’t need it anyway.