Detroit — An amazing thing happened late in Thursday's game, albeit something that might've gone relatively unnoticed given what had just happened.
When Tigers closer Joakim Soria gave up the tying homer to some kid named Preston Tucker in the ninth inning — ending his perfect run of save conversions — you couldn't hear more than a few scattered boos from the crowd of 33,193 at Comerica Park.
Instead, it mostly was just stunned silence.
Contrast that to past years when a Tigers closer coughed up a late lead, and the home crowd was pitch-fork furious. That's because they'd seen too many times before, whether from Joe Nathan, or Joaquin Benoit, or Jose Valverde, or Fernando Rodney, or Todd Jones.
Not so for Soria — and that only can be taken as a sign of sincere appreciation for a guy who's been so good closing ballgames in a Detroit uniform.
"I think so. I think so," said the day's hero, James McCann, who hit the 11th-inning walk-off homer to beat the red-hot Astros, 6-5, in the opener of a four-game series. "It was nice not to hear the boos. At the same time, I don't expect to hear the boos.
"When the fans get behind us, regardless of what's going on, it does help."
Soria, 31, entered the game a perfect 13-for-13 in save conversions since taking over for the injured Nathan in the first week of the season.
He also entered the game having not allowed a run in his last nine outings.
Then came Thursday, when with one out, he threw Tucker, a rookie pinch-hitter, a four-seam fastball off the plate — the same pitch he had just got a swing-and-miss on — and the left-handed hitter went yard the opposite way for his first career homer. Soria liked the pitch, and he said if he was going to get beat it had to be the opposite way.
That's what happened.
"You don't want him to pull that ball in that situation," Soria said. "The guy hit an opposite-way homer, just tip your cap. Good for him."
Hey, nobody's perfect.
Soria is a humble guy who appreciates the fans, but he admitted he didn't notice the lack of boos after the tying home run.
"That moment, you don't think about the fans. You think about what you're doing and thinking about the next hitter," Soria said. "I was trying to get those outs, so we can have a chance to come back — trying to keep the same score."
After the homer, Soria got Hank Conger and Jake Marisnick to ground out and keep the game tied heading to the bottom of the ninth inning.
He blew the save, but he still gave the Tigers a chance to win — as did Alex Wilson, who took over for Soria and pitched two scoreless innings of relief and got the win after McCann hit the first outside-the-park homer of his career.
Wilson was in the Tigers' bullpen when Tucker hit the home run, and was as shocked as everyone that Soria actually coughed one up. The last save he blew at all was July 22, 2014, his last outing for the Rangers before the trade to the Tigers.
Wilson was just pleased that after all Soria has done for this team — he said Soria's success this season has had a trickle-down effect on the bullpen, which has been good this year — he was able to do something for Soria, who, thanks to McCann and Wilson, was able to wear a pretty big smile afterward in the Tigers' clubhouse.
"Absolutely!" Wilson said. "Bullpen guys, we're a fraternity, we're one unit. Anytime we can pick up one another, it's a huge bonus.
"He's gonna return the favor for me one day, I guarantee it."