Kansas City — In one corner of the Tigers clubhouse Wednesday night, Victor Martinez was celebrating his 1,000th career RBI.
“You know what? No lie, I think it means a lot,” he said after the Tigers held for to a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals. “Never thought I was going to make it, first of all, to the big leagues. And then to get to this point — I am proud for everything I’ve done in my career.
“But I think the most important thing tonight is we were able to put a good win. Those guys over there are tough.”
Across the room, in another corner of the clubhouse, closer Francisco Rodriguez was not in a celebratory mood. His fourth save of the year was No. 390 in his career, tying him for sixth all-time with Dennis Eckersley.
“That was embarrassing,” he said.
Rodriguez gave up back-to-back home runs to Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez with one out in the ninth, trimming a three-run lead to one. He compounded the problem by walking speedy Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar with two outs.
“You have to be able to make pitches early in the count and try to put hitters away quick, because I’m totally pitching the opposite of how I pitch,” Rodriguez said. “Even though I still got the job done, it’s quite embarrassing. Simple as that.
“I have to pitch a lot better now, just get first-pitch strikes and put hitters away. Stop messing around.”
Rodriguez faced left-handed hitting Mike Moustakas with two on and two out. On a 2-2 count, he got Moustakas to swing through a change-up.
“It’s just giving way too much credit to the hitters, second-guessing myself,” he said. “Walking the tying and go-ahead run is something that you as a closer cannot let happen. You cannot do it. Simple as that.
“I’ve just got to make some adjustments quick and start pitching better.”
Other than the drama in the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers bullpen did its job protecting 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball from Jordan Zimmermann, who left a two-on, one-out mess in the bottom of the seventh.
With left-handed hitting Dyson up, and right-handed Escobar on deck, manager Brad Ausmus called on right-hander Mark Lowe, and not left-hander Justin Wilson.
“If I bring in Wilson, first of all they will pinch hit for Dyson,” he said. “They will use Paulo Orlando. Then I don’t have Wilson for the heart of their lineup in the eighth inning. I felt Lowe would get the right-hander and I didn’t mind him facing Dyson.”
It worked. Lowe got Dyson and Escobar to ground out. Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth, getting a double play from Lorenzo Cain and striking out left-handed hitting Eric Hosmer.
As for the drama in the ninth, never a doubt.
“He’s a pro,” Wilson said of Rodriguez. “He’s done it for a long time. This probably wasn’t the first time it’s happened to him. There was really no change in his demeanor…And that pitch to Moustakas, I don’t know how he gets the ball to move that much.”
Victor Martinez joined some elite company, becoming the fifth Venezuelan-born player to achieve 1,000 RBIs.
“Oooh, a thousand RBIs! Victor!” shouted Miguel Cabrera. “That’s a lot of RBIs. Venezuelan power. We’re coming from South America to drive runs to home plate.”
Martinez joins Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu and Andres Galarraga in the Venezuelan 1,000-RBI club. He got No. 1,000 with a opposite field single in the sixth inning.
“It’s an honor to be on that list with all those names,” Martinez said. “Those are the little things that make you still hungry for the ballpark. All four are great baseball players, no doubt. Great. I mean legends.
“This one right here (Cabrera) is a future Hall of Famer.”