Kinsler ends Tigers thriller with walk-off single

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers' Ian Kinsler, left, celebrates after being soaked with water against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park Tuesday.

Detroit – The Tigers offense these days is like tinder. It doesn’t take much to spark it.

“We were waiting for our offense to get going at some point,” said Ian Kinsler. “It took until the ninth inning.”

The Tigers rallied for two runs in the ninth to tie the game at 2-2, then won it in the 10th on a walk-off single by Kinsler. The sudden 3-2 win Tuesday was the Tigers’ fifth straight.

“It was the most exciting game of the season,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I don’t know if it was the biggest, but it was the most exciting.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 3, Jays 2

For eight innings the Tigers were essentially getting Scherzer’d by Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez. He allowed just one hit through eight innings, while striking out a career-high 12. Not quite as dominant as Max Scherzer’s 20-strikeout performance on May 11, but close enough.

“He was tough to solve,” Kinsler said.

The Tigers made 11 ground ball outs and hit only two balls in the air off him until the ninth.

Miguel Cabrera, who struck out twice against him, put it like this: “Oh my god. Unbelievable. Whew. Wow. Very impressed.”

The Tigers were down 2-0 coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth. The spark. A lousy single to right field by Jose Iglesias.

“That injected life into our dugout immediately,” Ausmus said.

Kinsler followed with a double to score Iglesias. At that point, Sanchez was pulled for closer Roberto Osuna.

First base was open and Victor Martinez, who fanned three times against Sanchez, was on deck. But the Blue Jays decided to pitch to Cabrera.

Osuna’s second pitch nearly decapitated him. It was a high 95 mph fastball under Cabrera’s chin and he fell to the ground to avoid the pitch.

“I said to Gene Lamont, ‘If that ticks Miggy off, Osuna might be in trouble,” Ausmus said.

Sure enough, after a swinging strike, Cabrera blasted one to the gap in right-center scoring Kinsler with the tying run.

“I mean, he's been in a lot of situations like that,” Cabrera said of Osuna. “I don't care what he did. I don't care what he's going to do to me. I've got to be ready to take one pitch and try to drive the ball.”

It looked at first like a game-winning home run but Cabrera knew he hit it in death valley.

“If this game's in Toronto, yeah (home run),” he said. “But we're in Detroit, man. I was just hoping the ball drops.”

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After Justin Wilson pitched a clean top of the 10th, Justin Upton singled to lead off the bottom half off reliever Joe Biagini. Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked, which set up a tough decision for Ausmus.

Iglesias was the batter and Kinsler was on deck, followed by Andrew Romine. To bunt or not to bunt was the question.

“I was a little in-between on it, quite frankly,” he said. “There was a good chance they would walk Kinsler, and then you have Romine up. But I just feel like, with a guy on third and less than two outs … a lazy fly ball could score the winning run. There’s a lot of different ways you can score from third that are easier than scoring from second.

“I was willing to take a shot. It wasn’t ideal, because Miggy was out of the game at that point, but I was willing to take a shot at it.”

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Upton bailed everybody out on the play. Iglesias bunted hard toward first base. Justin Smoak, Blue Jays first baseman, fielded it and fired to third. Upton, who got a great jump, beat the throw.

“It’s stuff you work on in spring training,” Upton said. “See the ball down and get going. I saw the ball down off Iggy’s bat and I had a pretty good secondary lead. I was able to beat it out.”

Said Iglesias: “Big base running by J-Up. He did a good job, great jump. This was a beautiful team effort, overall.”

That set the stage for Kinsler. Bases loaded and nobody out.

“My thought process when I was on deck was that Iglesias was going to bunt and they were going to walk me,” Kinsler said. “But in this game you never know what’s going to happen. You have to be prepared to hit.”

Kinsler had faced Biagini in spring training, but he was thinking he’d take the first pitch.

“I kind of wanted to see one, see if I could get some information on his breaking ball,” Kinsler said. “But he threw it down the middle. Like I said, you have to be ready all the time.”

Kinsler hit a high chopper over third baseman Josh Donaldson’s head. Ball game.

The Tigers, after winning just two of six on the West Coast a week ago, have won six out of seven.

“We are playing well right now,” Kinsler said. “We’re a good team and we’re playing well. When our pitchers can keep us in the game like they have been, with our offense, we have a chance to win a lot of games.”

Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd sits in the dugout in the third inning against the Blue Jays at Comerica Park Tuesday.