Detroit —There’s the Tigers’ season in a nut shell.
Oh, except they won.
“We survived,” said one of those gritty survivors, Jordan Zimmermann. “We got the win.
“That’s the main thing.”
True, in a game that featured a lot of things you don’t often see — Brad Ausmus going all Billy Martin for one, J.D. Martinez going all Scotty Smalls, for another — the result was what mattered most.
And just like that, the Tigers have won two games in a row, following a hold-on-to-your-hats, 10-8 victory over the meek Minnesota Twins before a sparse but often-amused crowd at Comerica Park on Sunday night.
Two in a row may not seem like much, but when you won one of the 11 games before that, you’ll take it, and you certainly won’t apologize for it, or the way you did it — or the way you almost didn’t.
Nick Castellanos, as he’s done so often this year, hit a home run in a huge situation, leading off the seventh inning of an 8-8 game, after the Tigers had blown a whopping eight-run lead.
That home run came exactly three innings after Castellanos was called out on strikes by umpire Doug Eddings, prompting Ausmus, with the reputation of laid-back surfer dude, to go all Ausmus the tidal wave. By the time he was done going nose-to-nose with Eddings — dropping several audible expletives in the process — he kicked some dirt on the inside corner of home plate, then ripped off his sweatshirt and covered home with it before storming off, steaming, but to a rousing ovation.
“That was entertaining,” said Ian Kinsler, “I thought.”
It also might’ve been more important than most fans might’ve realized.
By getting out of the dugout and in Eddings face so fast, Ausmus, squarely on the hot seat and already in a testy mood during his pregame chat with reporters, might’ve kept Castellanos from getting ejected — instead, keeping the big bat in play.
“I was pretty mild-mannered,” Castellanos said with a Cheshire Cat grin, “but I was gonna let him know pretty mildly that I just disagreed.”
Castellanos didn’t like the pitch before he was rung up, either.
In fact, there were lots of beefs with the strike zone, all night.
Ausmus said seven or eight players were complaining before he got rung.
“They can’t all be wrong,” Ausmus said.
Brian Dozier got called out on strikes to end the seventh inning, and got into it with Eddings, too, but was given much more rope than Ausmus — and so he remained in the game, and fully clothed, for that matter.
Castellanos’ homer also came right after Martinez dropped a routine fly ball in right field in the top of the seventh inning by Trevor Plouffe, allowing Byung Ho Park to score the tying run.
A Gold Glove finalist a year ago, Martinez said he never can recall dropping a ball like that. Afterward, he said he was praying Dozier wouldn’t make matters worse.
Zimmermann, who gave up his most runs in a game since last April, got him on the disputed strike call, and Castellanos quickly took Martinez off the hook.
“I was probably the happiest person in the dugout,” Martinez said of Castellanos laser into the bullpen in left. “I wanted to kiss him.”
For good measure, the next inning, Martinez hit a solo homer of his own to give the Tigers bullpen an insurance run to work with.
Not that the relievers, awful much of the month, needed it this time. Justin Wilson, bouncing back from a very rough stretch, was perfect in the eighth, and Francisco Rodriguez got them 1-2-3 in the ninth for his 10th save.
Zimmermann (6-2), impressively, got the win, grinding it out for seven innings, allowing 11 hits while striking out nine. He didn’t walk anybody and only threw 25 balls out of 109 pitches, a game plan perhaps necessitated by the early 8-0 lead. He clearly didn’t want to put guys on base.
The Twins took advantage of his pitches around the plate, Kurt Suzuki hitting his first homer of the season in the second, and Miguel Sano his sixth in the third.
Then came the fourth inning.
“The fourth inning,” said Zimmermann, “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The Twins batted around, though few balls ever left the infield — and one of them that did only did because it hit off the plate, then, amazingly, off the middle of second base and high into center field, to groans from the crowd. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear you were back at the old Metrodome.
And by the time it was over, it was Detroit 8, Minnesota 7, fans nauseous.
The Tigers, who rallied impressively to win Sunday’s game, got things started in a hurry Monday, sending 13 hitters to the plate in the first inning and leading 8-0 when it was over. To put that in perspective, coming in, the Tigers hadn’t scored more than six runs in a game in May.
Kinsler led off with a homer, and four walks later, Jose Iglesias — with three RBIs in 109 previous at-bats this season — knocked in three with one swing, a bases-clearing double to the gap. Kinsler followed with an RBI double, and by the end of the third inning, he needed only a triple for the cycle.
The Tigers knocked 21-year-old Jose Berrios out of the game after two-thirds of an inning and 39 pitches, and while lefty Pat Dean (0-1) provided 5.1 solid innings of relief, he somehow was the one saddled with the loss.
Cameron Maybin, in his first game as a Tiger, had a walk, two singles, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt and scored a run.
In other words, a little bit of everything — on a night when we saw a whole lot of strange brew.
“It would’ve been easy to hang your head,” Ausmus said of blowing the big lead — though he could’ve also been talking about the Tigers’ season in a nut shell. “We haven’t always won, but they don’t stop playing.”