Tigers scratch and claw to 4-2 victory over Mariners

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — While dogs sat in the stands, the cats with the bats sat on their hands.

Until, that is, they didn't.

The Tigers, resoundingly lifeless on offense for the first five innings, managed to scratch and claw out some big runs late to nip the Seattle Mariners, 4-2, on Tuesday night at Comerica Park. It was Detroit's 14th win in its last 18 games at home, and pushes the Tigers back over .500 with a 36-35 record.

Oft-maligned Mike Aviles, getting the start over Steven Moya in right field with hard-throwing left-hander James Paxton on the mound, fouled off some mighty tough pitches before he was able to nub an infield single down the first-base line in the eighth inning to drive in the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

"No night's a cakewalk," Cameron Maybin said. "It takes everybody. Each night, it might be somebody different."

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Mariners 2

Of course, it also might be somebody not so different.

Like, Justin Verlander, who didn't get the win, but was pretty outstanding again, allowing just two runs on one bad pitch -- a 96-mph fastball that Kyle Seager, with two outs, drilled for a long home run in the sixth inning to break a scoreless tie.

Earlier in the at-bat, Seager just missed a homer, also on a fastball.

Asked if he was disappointed in the pitch selection on the homer or the pitch location, Verlander smiled and said, "A little bit of all of the above.

"I kind of put us behind the 8-ball there," Verlander said.

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That was one of just six hits allowed by Verlander, who also had a walk to go with five strikeouts. This also marked the eighth time in nine games that he's gone at least seven innings. The lone holdout during this vintage stretch, he went 6⅔ innings.

Verlander wasn't necessarily his sharpest, but he was big when he needed to be, for the most part. He only had one 1-2-3 inning, but worked out of leadoff doubles in both the third and fourth innings, thanks to a nasty curveball, which, was better than his slider on this night.

"He made one mistake, to Seager," manager Brad Ausmus said.

Speaking of Seager, he had a heck of a sixth inning, making a diving stop on a scorched Victor Martinez grounder to third, starting a pivotal double play. The Tigers' third double play of the night, it seemed like a sure rally killer, given Paxton (1-3) still was pumping in fastballs at 98 and 99 mph.

But Nick Castellanos came up with a big, two-out single to cut the deficit to one, scoring Maybin, who led off with a single.

The next half-inning, the Tigers again did dandy work with two outs, when Jose Iglesias lined a single to right, then got a great secondary lead and took second on a wild pitch, before scoring the tying run on Ian Kinsler's single, also to right field. That was the team-leading 46th RBI for Kinsler, who just keeps getting better with age.

"We can change a game really quick," Castellanos said of the Tigers' lineup, so confident and deep.

Detroit, which played 13 innings Sunday and 12 more Monday, apparently decided in the eighth inning Tuesday that nine would be enough this time.

Victor Martinez had a one-out single in the eighth, followed by Castellanos' double to the gap in right-center. That would've scored just about anybody in Wayne County, with the exception of Martinez.

Ausmus then pulled Martinez for Andrew Romine, and after Justin Upton was walked intentionally to load the bases — drawing boos from the two-legged fans in attendance, a day after Upton belted two homers, including a walk-off — Aviles hit his swinging bunt down the line at first.

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That scored Romine, and Aviles was safe at first.

James McCann, despite falling behind in the count, then followed with a sacrifice fly to center to pad the lead, scoring Castellanos, who barrel-rolled, not so gracefully, into home.

"I scored," said Castellanos, "so I give myself a 10."

Francisco Rodriguez allowed a pair of two-out singles — including one to Ketel Marte, for his third hit of the night, after he had four Monday night — got Nori Aoki to ground out to second base end it for his 20th save of the season.

With the game tied at the time, Bruce Rondon (1-0) pitched a pretty clean eighth, allowing a one-out walk to Robinson Cano before getting Nelson Cruz to ground into a huge, inning-ending double play, with a nifty quick feed from Iglesias to Kinsler.

Cruz, long a noted Tiger killer, has turned into puppy chow this series, at just 1-for-10 halfway through the four-game set.