St. Petersburg, Fla. — So what were the odds?
How about one in a thousand, give or take? How about seven times in 100 years?
But in a game like his, in a park like the Trop, with a lineup as potent as the Tigers’, anything is possible.
The Tigers exploded for eight runs in the ninth inning to erase a five-run deficit and stun the Rays, 10-7 at Tropicana Field Thursday night, in the first of a four-game set.
“That was pretty special,” said Cameron Maybin, who had two hits in that eight-run ninth, including the game-winning three-run double. “We showed a lot of fight and a lot of heart. We stress not giving at-bats away. When you don’t give at-bats away, good things can happen like that.”
In the last five years, teams trailing by five runs in the ninth inning were 3-2,779, according to ESPN Stats and Research.
Since 1913, according to STATS, Inc., this was the seventh time the Tigers won a game after being down five runs entering the ninth. It was the first time since 1922 they scored eight or more runs in the ninth.
“This is a great way to start a road trip,” said Ian Kinsler, who walked with the bases loaded to force home the tying run. “To come back and win like that — I mean, a win is always positive; a win like this, you can put a plus next to it.”
The Rays picked a bad night to be without their closer. Alex Colome is out with an arm injury. So up 7-2 in the ninth, the Rays first turned to rookie Ryan Garton. The Tigers greeted him with four straight singles and cut the lead to 7-3.
“You are just thinking about doing your job,” Maybin said. “Just trying to pass the baton.”
The Rays called on Erasmo Ramirez next and the hit parade continued. Justin Upton singled — 7-4. Steven Moya's sacrifice fly made it 7-5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to make it 7-6.
Jose Iglesias walked to load the bases with one out. And then Kinsler walked on a 3-2 pitch to force in the tying run.
“It just starts to build and starts to build,” Kinsler said. “Balls starting finding holes. Guys are not necessarily squaring balls up but they keep finding holes. The whole game we were battling offensively. Then it kind of just broke open.
“But you never feel you are going to win it or tie it until you actually do. When Cam came through with that double, then we could exhale a little bit.”
Maybin got a high change-up and laced it into the gap in left-center.
“In that situation, I am looking for something I can get the barrel out on,” he said. “I want to get it to the outfield and score that run. I was glad I got a pitch I could drive. Being part of win like this is a lot of fun, man. This is what we play for.”
Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth for his 22nd save. It was the Tigers’ third straight win.
“Cam has been great since he’s been back,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Not only what he’s done at the plate and in center field, but his energy is real positive in the dugout. It’s been great having him around.”
Things were looking pretty grim until that ninth inning. The Tigers had managed just four hits in eight innings against starter Jake Odorizzi (who went five innings and struck out seven) and reliever Matt Andriese (three innings, one hit).
The Rays had scored four runs in a bizarre third inning off Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann, Three of the runs came on an 0-2, broken-bat bloop from Nick Franklin that fell between Iglesias and Upton in short left field.
“I didn’t pitch that bad,” Zimmermann said. “A lot of freaky things happened. Four or five balls were ground balls or bloops that you can’t control. That’s just the way baseball is.”
Zimmermann was able to throw three scoreless innings from the fourth through the sixth to keep the game relatively close, at least until the Rays added two more runs, both after two were out, off Anibal Sanchez in the eighth -- who, oddly enough, gets the win.
“Huge win for us,” Zimmermann said. “The team put together some great at-bats there in the ninth. Hopefully this win gives us momentum going into tomorrow. Hey, I will take pitching a game like this every time as long as we get the win.”