Tigers may lose, but they'll be scrappy when they do

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Yankees' Gregorio Petit is on deck in the second inning with a rainbow overhead. The Tigers have continued to play with optimism in the late innings this season.

Detroit — The Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The 2015 Tigers just about anywhere.

These are teams for which no lead ever seems completely safe.

And Yankees manager Joe Girardi wasns't exactly smoking a pipe with a four-run lead entering the ninth inning Tuesday night at Comerica Park.

"They're tough. We said all along, they've got a very good lineup," Girardi said after the Yankees' 5-2 victory — that actually was closer than the final score. "I mean, their offense is gonna be up there the whole year, the top of the league.

"We know that."

The Tigers trailed 5-1 entering the ninth inning, and actually got the potential winning run to the plate.

In one of their other two losses this year, at Pittsburgh, they also trailed 5-1 entering the ninth, and they lost 5-4.

So, to recap: In 14 games this year, the Tigers have won 11 of them, had a chance to win two others in the ninth inning, and then lost one in blowout fashion.

They have a lot of pieces in this lineup — power hitters, contact hitters, guys who can draw a walk, guys who can steal a base. And, because of that, while some less-motivated teams might go through the motions trailing by four in the late innings, these Tigers don't ever feel like they're finished.

"We definitely don't quit," said Rajai Davis, who drew a two-out, bases loaded walk against Andrew Miller in the ninth inning to make it 5-2. "We expect to win every game, and when we don't, people are a little bit disappointed."

Girardi knows the Tigers' abilities. He's praised the lineup every chance he has this week.

And Tuesday, he made the pitching moves to prove he's serious.

After Alex Avila led off the eighth inning with a double, Girardi was taking absolutely no chances. He went swiftly to powerful setup man Dellin Betances, who quickly set down the next three hitters.

And after the Tigers started a little something with two outs in the ninth inning, Girardi was taking absolutely no chances. He went right to Miller, his $36-million closer, even though the lead still was four at that point.

Miller walked his first two hitters (Nick Castellanos after a check swing that Girardi thought should've been strike three, then Davis), before striking out Jose Iglesias, swinging, to end the game — and hand the Tigers a rare loss.

"Normally, yeah, there's music playing in here when we get in here," said Avila, in the Tigers clubhouse afterward. "So it's a little bit strange.

"We can put up four, five, six runs in an inning. I don't think we ever feel like we're gonna be out of the game. The other thing is, one of the marks of a good team is being able to come back. You're not gonna be ahead every single night."