Iglesias walk-off hit lifts Tigers to 9-1
Detroit — Hey, when you're hot, you're hot.
It doesn't matter when you strand two runners in the first, and two more in the third, and two more in the fifth. You'll score enough. It doesn't even matter when the ball beats you to the bag by several feet in the ninth inning of a tie game. You'll be safe.
Everything is going right these days for the Tigers, who now are 9-1 for the first time since 1984 — and, if memory serves, that was a pretty good year for this franchise.
Jose Iglesias drilled an RBI single up the middle in the ninth inning to send the Tigers past the White Sox, 2-1, before an appreciative crowd of 33,084 on a sun-splashed Friday afternoon at Comerica Park.
Nick Castellanos led off the inning with a line shot to right field, where Avisail Garcia, the former Tiger, made a nice effort, but the ball bounced away. That prompted Castellanos to head for second, where Garcia's throw beat him by a lot — but umpire Brian O'Nora called him safe.
And O'Nora was adamant. He said White Sox shortstop Alxei Ramirez missed the tag, video replays seem mixed and, amazingly, White Sox manager Robin Ventura declined to challenge.
"A lot of umpires, if the ball beats you there, they'll take it for granted and call you out," said Castellanos, his face still caked in melting eye black. "When he called me safe, I was pretty thrilled that he stuck with the play."
Ventura hung out just outside the first-base dugout, waiting for his replay guy to give him the word — even though, in the ninth inning with the potential winning run on second, it should've been an automatic.
But his replay guy gave the thumbs-down, and Ventura headed into the dugout. He popped back out a few moments later after reconsidering, but by then the umpires had told him the play was over.
Alex Avila followed with a sacrifice bunt, and Iglesias hung tough after getting down 0-2 — before drilling an offering from lefty reliever Zach Duke (1-1) just past diving second baseman Emilio Bonifacio.
It was the first career walk-off hit for Iglesias, who, as one of the littler guys on the team, got roughed up in the rowdy postgame celebration.
"A little bit," Iglesias said, flashing a sheepish grin. "No, I'm fine. I hope it happens again. You gotta enjoy it. It doesn't happen very often."
The victory made sure David Price's dazzling effort wasn't wasted.
He went eight sharp innings, allowing just the one run — a leadoff homer in the second inning by Garcia, who clapped his hands rounding first base, near his good friend, Miguel Cabrera. He gave the Tigers a third straight start of eight innings, following Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon.
Price struck out nine, and walked just one while allowing four hits. He also received some good defense, particularly from himself. He chased down two excellent White Sox bunts, and got both speedy runners — one with a glove flip and one with a hand shove.
He also started a 1-6-3 double play to end the seventh inning — the same type of play on which he threw away the ball in his last start, in Cleveland.
Price walked off the mound after striking out the side in the eighth to a loud ovation from the crowd. He knew he was probably done, at 108 pitches, but he didn't want manager Brad Ausmus to know.
"That's why I didn't tip my cap," Price said. "I don't want Brad to think I want to come out of the game. ... I definitely appreciate the cheers."
Price was matched, almost pitch for pitch, by White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija, acquired this offseason in a trade with the A's.
He had a little more traffic on the bases — the Tigers stranded eight runners while he was in the game — but still allowed just the one run through eight innings. He struck out seven, while giving up eight hits.
The only run Samardzija was tagged with came in the fourth, when Tigers slugger Yoenis Cespedes hit an absolute moon-shot homer to left — his first homer as a Tiger, and it was a gem, nearly landing past the first section of seats.
The game marked the Tigers third win in a row, and in those three wins, they've scored five runs, total. This is after exploding, offensively, out of the gate.
No worries, they say.
"It's not gonna happen all the time," Avila said, of scoring runs in bunches. "You're facing Jeff Samardzija.
"The last three games, we're kind of playing complete baseball right now. ... We need to be able to win multiple different ways. Normally the teams that are in the playoffs have that type of success winning one-run games. That's a tribute to the pitching, defense and a timely hit here and there."
That's right, the Tigers are doing it all.
The pitching has been stellar, with Price, whose ERA is "up" to 0.40, followed by Joakim Soria (1-0), who got the win with a 1-2-3 ninth inning — his third consecutive perfect outing.
The defense was there, this time from an unlikely source, Castellanos, at third base. He worked tirelessly this offseason, but still is a work in progress. But on Friday, he made a nice backhanded play along the line early, then Jose Abreu led off the ninth with a shot to Castellanos' left. He left his feet, snagged it and threw a strike to first.
And the timely hitting, it's there — and it's seemingly coming from everywhere.
"They always have that stat, the last 10 games, throughout the whole year," Ian Kinsler said of the standings. "We just got to that point. Anytime you can go 9-1 in a stretch, it's a good thing."
Hey, when you're hot, you're hot.