Detroit — First of all, Tigers third base coach Dave Clark would have needed to erect a brick wall at third base to stop Justin Upton.
“I had no intention, zero intention, of stopping,” said Upton, who raced home with the tying run from second base on a two-out single to left field by James McCann in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday.
McCann hit the ball hard and Astros left fielder Colby Rasmus has a good arm. It was a risky play — but it turns out, it was predetermined.
“I actually told (Clark) before McCann came up to send him, regardless,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I had a sign with Clarkie to just send him, because we might not get another shot.”
Only if the ball was hit extremely hard and directly at an outfielder would Clark have even attempted to stop Upton.
“What I’m basically doing is taking the doubt out of Clarkie’s mind,” Ausmus said. “If he’s in-between, just send him. It’s my fault if he gets thrown out.”
Upton, who had stolen his seventh base in nine attempts earlier in the game, beat the throw easily to tie the score at 2. Tyler Collins, who was on first, hustled to third base on an errant throw — setting up the winning infield single by Jose Iglesias.
Iglesias hit a ground ball wide of first base and beat pitcher Will Harris to bag.
“I’ve seen him do it before,” Tigers starter Justin Verlander said of Iglesias. “He flies down the line when he can smell a hit. It was kind of a tough play with the first baseman going in the hole and having to throw to the pitcher.
“I know from the pitcher’s perspective you have to kind of take your time and make sure you field the throw because it’s an overhand throw and you’re not really used to seeing that. Iggy just beat him.”
Harris took the blame, telling reporters afterward that he needed to find the bag first and then the ball. Instead he caught the ball and fished around for the bag. Too late.
“Some games are definitely more memorable than others and this is probably one of them,” Ausmus said. “In terms of excitement — especially even in terms of walk-offs, this is even one that stands out. This is probably one that we’ll remember through the season, at least.”
The Tigers bashed out 16 hits and 14 runs on Friday night, but until the ninth, their only run Saturday came on a dropped pop up.
Verlander and Astros starter Mike Fiers were in a serious pitcher’s duel, scoreless into the sixth inning. Fiers had allowed two singles and retired 12 straight when Cameron Maybin lashed a two-out single to center.
Miguel Cabrera followed with a pop up, a mile high, into short right field. The breeze carried it deeper than second baseman Jose Altuve expected. He stumbled and couldn’t make the catch.
Maybin never stopped running and scored with an evasive slide, eluding the tag of catcher Jason Castro.
“When you have an outing like that by your starting pitcher, you don’t want to waste it,” Ausmus said. “So to be up 1-0 in the ninth, then all of a sudden be down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, conversely come back to win it, 3-2 — you go from it could’ve been a real painful loss, to a real exciting win.”