Tigers' clutch victory tempered by injury woes

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Miguel Cabrera has made much of his living hitting with the bases loaded, and feasting on left-handed pitchers.

But, oddly, not this season.

He's been dreadful at both in 2016.

Cabrera, though, put that recent history aside for one big at-bat, lining a two-out single to right off Jonathon Niese in the fourth inning of the Tigers' 6-5 victory over the New York Mets before a sellout crowd of 41,053 on a glorious Saturday night at Comerica Park.

At the time, that gave the Tigers a 6-3 lead, but the Mets rallied to tighten things up in the seventh.

Cabrera's hit ended up being the winner, as Detroit stayed two games back of Cleveland in the American League Central race.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 6, Mets 5

J.D. Martinez finished it off in dramatic fashion, throwing out Jay Bruce at the plate for the final out.

"J.D. picked me up big time!" closer Francisco Rodriguez said. "When everything's going well, you catch those type of breaks.

"I guarantee you, if that would've happened the first two weeks of the season, this would've been a blown save for sure, when things aren't going well."

Instead, it was the Tigers' 10th win in their last 11 games, they've guaranteed a fourth consecutive series victory, and they improved to 20-12 in one-run games.

At 61-49, they're also a season-high 12 games over .500.

Cabrera also had an RBI double in the first inning, scoring Tyler Collins, who reached on a walk — and was on base four times in the game, including with a triple and a single.

Cabrera's hit three innings later highlighted Detroit's five-run, six-hit uprising in which 10 Tigers batted, starting with a double by Victor Martinez and a single by J.D. Martinez.

Nick Castellanos then was hit by a pitch on the left hand (it's fractured; he's likely out at least a month) to load the bases, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia punched a two-run single — that Castellanos barely eluded on the base paths — and Ian Kinsler followed with an RBI single to chase Mets starter Logan Verrett (3-7).

Collins then got a base hit off Niese, before the Cabrera two-run single.

Tigers' Castellanos could miss month with hand injury

"He's learning to slow the game down," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Collins and his recent surge, "which comes with experience."

The Tigers' typically stout bullpen quartet of Alex Wilson, Justin Wilson, Shane Greene and Rodriguez got the job done on the back end, though it wasn't as easy as it has been lately.

The first two batters reached against Alex Wilson, the second a shot off his right knee by Rene Rivera. He immediately went tumbling to the ground, but after a visit from Ausmus and trainers, he stayed in the game, then got Matt Reynolds to hit into a double play and Curtis Granderson to ground out.

Tigers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia tags Mets' Jay Bruce for the final out of the game.

Justin Wilson then worked the seventh, also allowing the first two to reach. Then Jay Bruce hit a grounder to first, where Cabrera often turns a nifty double play. This throw, though, nailed Neil Walker in the helmet to score one run and put runners on the corners with nobody out.

Wilmer Flores then hit a bouncer to third, where Mike Aviles had replaced Castellanos — and Aviles let the ball play him, and it bounced away for another error and another Mets run to make it a one-run game.

"We haven't had many innings like that," Ausmus said.

Justin Wilson, though, got tough, getting Travis d'Arnaud to ground into a double play and Kelly Johnson to ground out to second base.

In the eighth, Greene allowed a one-out single, but also got a double play when Granderson lined to Cabrera at first base.

Rodriguez picked up his 32nd save, working around a trio of two-out singles, by Bruce, pinch-hitter and occasional Tigers killer Alejandro De Aza and d'Arnaud.

J.D. Martinez, not believing d'Arnaud could hit it over his head, cheated up and when d'Arnaud hit a slow roller into right, Martinez was charging with a full head of steam and threw a seed to Saltalamacchia.

The Mets didn't even bother to ask for a replay.

It's been quite the week for Martinez, with that dramatic homer in his first at-bat back earlier in the week, and now winning a game with his defense. Which is better?

"Definitely the homer," he said with a smile. "This one was cool, too."

Matt Boyd (3-2) was solid if unspectacular in his start, allowing three runs through five innings. He gave up home runs to Granderson, the popular ex-Tiger who received a huge ovation before his first at-bat and still received loud cheers when he went yard, and the newest Mets star, Bruce.

Report: Tigers placing Zimmermann back on DL

Boyd allowed two runs in a taxing fourth inning, but it should've only been one, except the Tigers failed to turn a typically routine double-play ball and the next batter had an RBI single.

Ausmus said Boyd has been doing all the Tigers can ask, though he still struggles to put hitters away after he gets ahead of them. He had several Mets down 0-2 in the count Saturday, but many came back to get the better of him, including Bruce on the home run.

"It's just execution," Boyd said, adding there is a bit of an art to pitching ahead in the count. "You can't take your foot off the gas."

Boyd's spot in the rotation could continue for awhile longer than expected, as the Tigers are putting Jordan Zimmermann (reaggravation of neck injury) on the 15-day disabled list. Norris will take Zimmermann's next scheduled start and probably more, instead of replacing Boyd in the rotation.

The Tigers go for the sweep at 1:10 Sunday afternoon.