Parnell's great escape paves way for late rally

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Bobby Parnell works in the eighth inning Tuesday night.

Detroit – Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera delivered the big blows in the Tigers gritty, 3-2 10-inning win over the Blue Jays Tuesday.

Jose Iglesias and Justin Upton played vital supporting roles.

But as several players and manager Brad Ausmus pointed out afterward, the late-inning drama, the two-run ninth that tied the game and Kinsler’s game-winning single in the 10th aren’t possible without the Tigers pitching staff keeping them within striking range.

“The way we were able to hang around,” Ausmus said, “the credit goes to our pitchers for keeping us in the game. There was never a sense of defeat, because we were only two runs down.”

For eight innings, the Tigers’ bats were silenced by Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez. A double by Justin Upton was the only hit. He struck out 12. Still, when the Tigers came to bat in the ninth, they needed just one base runner to bring tying run to the plate.

“That was the key, our pitchers kept us in the game,” said Kinsler, who doubled in a run and scored the tying run in the ninth before slapping the game-winning single in the 10th. “They allowed us to continue to work, to continue to try to get something going.”

Left-hander Matt Boyd started and pitched four no-hit innings until Kevin Pillar led off the fifth with a first-pitch home run. He only allowed three hits, though he walked five, in 5⅓ innings.

Shane Green took over in the sixth and promptly cleaned up a first and third, one-out mess that Boyd left. First, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia picked off Russell Martin at third base. The runner at first, Michael Saunders, attempted to steal second. Saltalamacchia faked the throw and Martin broke from third.

He was out in a rundown.

Greene gave up the second Blue Jays run in the seventh.

Wojo: Zumaya flamed out in a blaze of glory

Then in the eighth, after Blaine Hardy walked Saunders with one out, Bobby Parnell entered. There was no save awarded in this game, but Parnell should put in for one.

He got a double play to end the eighth, then worked a Houdini escape act in the ninth.

“He got himself in a little trouble,” Kinsler said. “That was not a good place to be. But he was able to work through it. It’s the sign of a good pitcher.”

He walked Pillar and then botched a ground ball from Darwin Barney. He went to throw to second, saw that Pillar was already at the base and then lost control of the ball trying to stop his throwing motion.

“You got a runner on first, in a big situation like that,” Parnell said. “I catch the ball, and my first instinct’s to go to second base. It’s kind of a big hop there, so I know I’ve got to get it out quick. I turn around and he’s got his hands up.

“So I try to hold onto the ball, and when you’re going full force, it’s tough.”

First and second, nobody out, and here comes Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion.

Tigers' Zimmermann sees spike in numbers vs. righties

The former Mets closer, no stranger to pressure situations, had to regroup. Especially after he fell behind 2-0 on Bautista.

“Yeah, it’s first and second,” he said. “I know I’m a ground ball away from a double play. And I was fortunate enough to get some strikeouts there, which was big. I felt like I was always in the ballgame.”

Featuring a 95 mph fastball and a nasty curve, he came back to strike out Bautista. He walked Donaldson intentionally, then fanned Encarnacion and got Martin to ground out. No damage.

“Big,” Parnell said. “I’m going to walk a little taller today, after that.”

It was eye-opening for Ausmus, too.

“It was huge,” he said. “We haven’t seen much of Bobby – a little in spring training and then he’s been at Toledo. We knew he’s been a closer in the big leagues and he’s pitched in high-leverage situations – but not in a few years.

“So it was good to see him do this. You see things like that and you think maybe this guy can help us at some point in the sixth, seventh or eighth inning.”

Parnell, who has fought back from Tommy John surgery, made a few minor mechanical adjustments in his time at Toledo and he’s recently started reaping the benefits.

“I feel good,” he said. “The direction we’ve been going for the last two months is the right direction, and I’m feeling better than ever. The ball’s coming out really well for me tonight, and I have a lot of confidence on the mound.

“I think it paid off big today."