Tigers bounce back with walk-off win

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Two days was long enough.

The Tigers didn't want to think about, or anguish over the Sunday night/Monday morning crushing loss anymore.

"I think everyone in here felt like we should've won Sunday," Ian Kinsler said. "It's just nice to win a game, get back on track."

Kinsler had a lot to do with, driving the walk-off hit in the 10th inning of Tuesday night's 2-1 win over the Twins at Comerica Park.

With one out, Kinsler muscled a flare into right center, and speedy Anthony Gose was off with the crack of the bat to score easily, and kick off a mob scene of Tigers near the third-base line.

It was nearly an identical game to what happened Sunday, when the Tigers blew chance after chance and lost to the Royals, 2-1, in 10 innings. They had an off-day to live with that, and then squandered opportunities again Tuesday.

But on Tuesday, they finally got the big hit they've been waiting for.

"It's fun to watch (him)," J.D. Martinez said of Kinsler. "He's the kind of player, he's been in that situation before, this was not his first time. With the Rangers, they were always in the playoffs, the World Series. Even here. He's a guy that's used to pressure situations, and he doesn't get afraid of them."

Gose, with one out in the 10th inning, blasted a double to left field — the very next at-bat after he was asked to sacrifice bunt.

That brought up Kinsler to face just-brought-in Twins reliever Ryan Pressly (1-1).

Twice late in Sunday's game, the Tigers had the tying or winning run at second base or third base with nobody out, and they couldn't come through.

This time, with one out, somebody got a big hit for the struggling offense.

"It feels good," Gose said moments after scoring the winner for his new team. "We just want to win games, no matter how it is."

That's right. They were plenty content last week when Kinsler had the walk-off, as well — with a bunt, no less.

Tuesday's big hit made a first-time winner out of rookie Angel Nesbitt (1-1), who worked around a leadoff single and got help from catcher James McCann on a strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play to earn his first major-league beer shower.

Joakim Soria kept on rolling, with a scoreless ninth for Detroit.

But the story on the mound for the Tigers was, without question, Alfredo Simon, who pitched into the eighth inning, having masterfully mixed his pitches and hit his spots.

"That might've been the best outing we've had from him," said manager Brad Ausmus, "in terms of efficiency, and pitches, and swings and misses, and big outs with runners in scoring position and on third base."

Simon went 7.2 innings, allow‌ing one run on six hits and a walk, while striking out six. Three of those strikeouts, by the way, come consecutively in a huge situation in the second inning.

Trevor Plouffe led off the second with a walk, and was off on the pitch when Kurt Suzuki split the gap in right-center — a spot in the ballpark that almost always scores a runner from first, especially one on the move.

But Plouffe hesitated near second just to make sure the ball wasn't caught, and with nobody out, the Twins held him up at third. The Tigers caught a break, and ran with it.

Facing three consecutive lefties, Simon showcased his fastball in and his splitter away and down — with McCann blocking no fewer than three in the dirt that inning. And in order, Simon whiffed Kennys Vargas, Eduardo Escobar and just-called-up Aaron Hicks.

Runners on second and third and no outs, and the Tigers don't give up a run?

Yeah, they were pumped.

"That was a huge momentum change for us," McCann said. "We didn't end up putting up big-time runs, but that was a big shift, a big confidence booster. Second and third with no outs, you're really just trying to minimize damage. He not only minimized damage, there was no damage. That's huge."

On the other side, Twins starter Kyle Gibson was getting hit hard early, but the Tigers weren't stringing the hits together.

Then, J.D. Martinez hit a line-drive solo homer to right in the fourth inning — after he just missed a homer his first time up. It was his first homer since April 29.

The Tigers held onto that lead, as Simon worked in and out of jams like a magician, until the eighth inning. Simon, nearing 100 pitches, was hit hard in the seventh inning, but was bailed out by some nice defense — including a sliding grab by Yoenis Cespedes, who had to navigate through the heavy rain at the time. Cespedes, later in the inning, short-hopped a line drive, allowing him to get a force out at second base.

The Tigers kept the bullpen quiet, though, and Simon began the eighth — and allowed a leadoff triple to Danny Santana. A line drive to right field didn't get him in, but Santana broke for him on a shallow flyball to center, where Gose unleashed a strong throw, but one that was 20 feet wide of the plate. Tie game.

"I just tried to trust my stuff, and try to throw the ball down. The off-speed worked really good today. I tried to keep the game close," said Simon, who also featured his patented eephus pitch — one, in the mid-50-mph range, on which he got ex-Tiger Torii Hunter to pop-up on, after Hunter had seen the same pitch earlier in the at-bat.

"My last inning, I was behind in the count, just trying to throw strikes."

Joba Chamberlain, who blew up a game in the eighth inning earlier this month in Chicago, came on with two out and a runner on first Tuesday, and threw all fastballs — oddly, ditching the struggling slider — to strike out Plouffe to end the inning.

The Tigers had a chance to go right back ahead in the bottom of the eighth inning, after Jose Iglesias — back from a week off with a groin injury — led off with an infield single. Then, Ausmus continued to show how much he loves the bunt, and Gose got it down, and nearly beat it out (the out was upheld on a Tigers' challenge). That bunt got the runner to second, but after Kinsler grounded out, that bunt also assured that the Twins would intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera to pitch to a hobbled Victor Martinez.

Victor Martinez grounded out to end the threat.

Ausmus, who tried bunting numerous times late in Sunday's loss, continued to defend his decision-making.

"We have 2-3-4 coming up," he said. "At that point in the game, you've got your best hitters coming up with runners in scoring position. Even if they get Kinsler out and they walk Miggy, they still have Victor. You're putting the pressure on them."

The Twins handled that pressure just fine.

The Tigers had another threat in the ninth, when Cespedes reached with a one-out double. Pinch-hitter Rajai Davis grounded out, bringing up McCann — who hit a flare to right that he thought would be the winner. So did the crowd.

But Hunter, who was criticized for his subpar defense in right field during his time as a Tiger, came in and made the shoestring catch to, at the time, save the game.

"I did," McCann said, when asked if he thought he'd scored his first walk-off hit. "Then Torii found his 25-year-old self again."

Soria got the Twins 1-2-3 in the ninth inning, and Nesbitt, who took his first career loss in Sunday's game, pitched the inning that would get him his first career win.

Thanks to Gose's double, and Kinsler's walk-off.

Finally, a Tiger came through with a big hit.

It seemed liked it had been forever — or, at least, more than two days.

"Those were two in a row that were very similar," Ausmus, whose Tigers now are 6-1 on the season against the Twins, said of the Sunday and Tuesday games. "Fortunately, we were on the winning end of this one."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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