Upton follows Cabrera's titanic blast with walk-off HR

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Justin Upton hits a walk-off home run in the 12th inning.

Detroit -- Miguel Cabrera made the fans go, "Oooh."

Justin Upton then made them go, "Ahhh."

Brad Ausmus then made them go, "Huh?"

And Mike Pelfrey, well, he made them go ... eh, never mind.

Plus, as it turned out, Pelfrey's latest dud start didn't even matter, as Upton followed a mammoth first home run with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th inning, as the Tigers took the opener of a four-game series with the Seattle Mariners, 8-7, at Comerica Park.

"That was a big relief tonight," said Upton, who's had a wildly frustrating season for a gent who this offseason was signed to a six-year, $132.75-million contract. "To win a ballgame for this team, there's been a lot of ballgames where I could've helped and I didn't.

"Baseball's funny, man.

"Sometimes, it clicks."

BOX SCORE: Tigers 8, Mariners 7, 12 innings

Upton's walk-off homer — the fourth of his career — came leading off the 12th, on a 2-2 count, against Mariners lefty Vidal Nuno (0-1).

The win was the Tigers 13th in their last 17 home games, and gets them back to .500 — against all odds in a 4-hour, 29-minute affair in which Cabrera and Steven Moya were taken out, for Andrew Romine (pinch-runner) and Mike Aviles (defensive replacement), respectively.

Anibal Sanchez (4-7) got the win working the 12th, getting around a leadoff double by Adam Lind and a sacrifice bunt to keep the game tied.

Sanchez's inning of work, by the way, almost certainly means Daniel Norris will be called up to take Matt Boyd's spot in the rotation for the series finale Thursday. Ausmus said that decision would be made Tuesday.

Understandably, he just wanted to enjoy Monday, which he hopes will be the day Upton looks back as the day he, unofficially, became a Tiger

"I hope," Ausmus said. "He has such a long track record of being a good offensive player.

"Sometimes it just takes a little bit of patience."

The Tigers, before the walk-off even, had two mammoth home runs in this one, a two-run shot by Cabrera in the first inning off Nathan Karns that actually bounced out of Comerica Park, technically traveling 500 feet, at minimum. It landed at least 470 feet from home plate.

Upton added a two-run shot to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead in the seventh, a bomb to dead center in the second row of shrubbery. That one went at least 440 feet.

After both bombs, though, the Mariners answered, with a four-spot off Pelfrey in the second — highlighted by a Kyle Seager homer — to take a 4-2 lead, and a double and a single to tie it at 7 in the eighth.

Henning: Moya a pivotal prospect for Tigers

In the eighth, Ketel Marte had a two-out double — one of his four hits — off Justin Wilson. But it probably should've been a single. Aviles, an interesting defensive replacement for Moya, misplayed the carom off the cut-in wall. Marte then scored on a single by Leonys Martin.

"I feel comfortable with Aviles," Ausmus said. He added, of Moya's right-field defense, "He's gotta hone his skills."

Still, the Tigers had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, after Cabrera led off with a single and Victor Martinez followed with a single, off former Tiger Joaquin Benoit.

Ausmus then pinch-ran for Cabrera, with Romine.

"You don't want to," Ausmus said. "The fear is you end up going extra innings. But once he got to second, a single wins the game."

That single never came, as Benoit got Nick Castellanos (not bunting) to fly out, Upton to pop out and Aviles to strike out.

The Tigers bullpen kept hope alive, though, with an impressive 1-2-3 inning from Francisco Rodriguez, and some outstanding escape artistry from Kyle Ryan, especially against some tough left-handed hitters, and Alex Wilson and Sanchez.

The Mariners had two on and one out against Ryan in the sixth and didn't score, two on and two out in the 10th and two on and nobody out in the 11th against Alex Wilson and didn't score, and a leadoff double by Adam Lind (who had homered earlier in the game) in the 11th against Sanchez.

Lind was bunted up to third, but Sanchez got a groundout to short, where Jose Iglesias overcame a bobble to get the out at first while keeping Lind at third, and a smashed liner to Castellanos to keep the game tied — and set up Upton's heroics for what was left of the crowd of 27,670.

"The bullpen needed me, and I wasn't there," Pelfrey said. "I wasn't very good. My stuff wasn't very good, split wasn't very good, fastball command wasn't very good.

"I was terrible today."

Cabrera blasts homer out of Comerica Park

Pelfrey, somehow, managed to go five innings, despite allowing 12 hits and a walk — yet, amazingly, only six runs. Three double plays helped him out, and the Tigers turned four on the night — including a huge one by noted Tiger killer Nelson Cruz in the 11th, after Shawn O'Malley led off with a double and Ausmus intentionally walked Robinson Cano.

The Mariners finished with 19 hits, the Tigers 14.

Cameron Maybin added a two-run triple for the Tigers, who lost in 13 innings Sunday, only to respond with a 12-winning triumph — thanks to some big hits, from a guy Tigers fans expect them from (Cabrera) and a guy Tigers fans hope to expect them from moving forward (Upton).

"A great place to start," said Upton, when asked if this could be his turning point. "Definitely try to build on it."