July 24, 2012 – Suicide Squeeze by Aaron Cunningham Bunts Home the Winning Run
The division-leading Tigers came into Progressive Field riding a five-game winning streak and sent Doug Fister to the hill against Ubaldo Jiminez.
Johnny Damon broke the ice for the Tribe in the bottom of the second with a line drive single to center off Fister’s first pitch that drove home Carlos Santana.
Jason Kipnis led off the bottom of the fourth with a double down the left field line. Michael Brantley got aboard when he beat out a ground ball to third. Kipnis held at second. Then Santana punched a single between first and second to score Kipnis. Brantley ended up caught in a rundown, which saw Detroit first baseman Cecil Fielder sprinting across the infield on the wild play to tag out Dr. Smooth.
Joe Smith replaced Ubaldo to pitch the top of the seventh. After retiring the first two batters, he issued a walk to Quintin Berry. Unfortunately, Miguel Cabrera was up next. Smith fell behind 2-0 to Miguel, who crushed the following pitch over the center field wall to tie up the game.
After a Carlos Santana fly-out, Travis Hafner launched a low line drive which ricocheted off the wall in left center. Hafner was safe at third with a head-first slide.
Lou Marson was brought on to pinch run for a clearly-winded Hafner. Marson took off toward the plate on the 1-1 pitch to Cunningham who laid down a perfect bunt back to the pitcher. Fister fielded the bunt cleanly, but his throw home was rushed and got away from catcher Alex Avila. Marson scored on the suicide squeeze and Cunningham took second on the error.
Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez held up the 3-2 lead to secure the win and end the Tiger’s winning streak. In reference to the blown save Smith said, “It was like my big truck was sitting on top of me and somebody lifted it off…The guys bounced right back after I messed up.”
Less than 24 hours later, Cunningham was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for first baseman Brent Lillibridge who had just been acquired from the Red Sox. Manager Manny Acta had high praise for Cunningham as a teammate, but his .197 average in 97 appearances was not enough to keep him on the big league team.