Tigers zoom past Sox, zap 3-game skid
Detroit — They waited all day for something to get excited about, and when Ian Kinsler led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single and Erick Aybar followed with a double, the crowd of 34,649 ignited an energy surge inside Comerica Park.
“That was great,” said Miguel Cabrera. “I wish they could be like that the whole game, from the first inning to the ninth. They get you going. You want to go out there and do your best.”
Down 3-1 and facing the vaunted back end of the Red Sox bullpen, the Tigers scored three times and stole a 4-3 victory Thursday afternoon, snapping a three-game losing streak.
“The last three games were tough,” Cabrera said. “Against Kansas City, we didn’t play well. When you don’t get runs, it’s tough to win.”
Cabrera, off right-hander Junichi Tazawa, singled in the eighth to score Kinsler. It was his 1,000th RBI as a Tiger.
Victor Martinez, off side-arming right-hander Brad Ziegler, followed with another single to tie the game.
With nobody out, manager Brad Ausmus made the agonizing decision to remove Cabrera from second base in favor of a faster runner – Tyler Collins.
Good move, Cabrera said.
“You have to understand the game,” Cabrera said. “I’m not a fast runner. It was the game-winning run. With a base hit, a hard base hit, I don’t think I’m going to score. So a better runner I think has a better chance.
“I mean, we want to play nine innings, we want to play extra innings, but we want to win. To me, it was a good decision to make.”
It ended up not factoring in. J.D. Martinez was walked to load the bases and Collins was forced out at the plate on a grounder to third by Casey McGehee.
And after Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out, it looked like Ziegler would escape with a tie. Except he walked Andrew Romine with the go-ahead run.
“It was fun,” Ausmus said of the eighth-inning uprising. “It hasn’t been fun the last three days. We didn’t do much. There was not a lot of activity in the dugout because we didn’t have a lot of offense going on.
“It was fun to finally do it with the game on the line and with everybody in the lineup contributing in some fashion.”
There was drama in the top of the ninth. Closer Francisco Rodriguez, with runners at second and third, got hot-hitting Mookie Betts to line out to Ian Kinsler at second for his 34th save.
First base was open with two outs and a less hot Hanley Ramirez on deck. Ausmus admitted he considered walking Betts, who came in hitting .488 with a 1.554 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs.
“I know K-Rod is an intelligent pitcher and he sometimes needs some wriggle room,” Ausmus said, referencing that one of the keys to Rodriguez’s success is getting hitters to swing at pitches just out of the strike zone. “If you load the bases, you don’t have that wriggle room. If he would have got to 2-0 or 3-1, we probably would have walked him.
“But I wanted to allow K-Rod some room to maneuver a little bit.”
He had just enough.
After Tigers starter Matt Boyd yielded just one run over six innings, the Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the eighth off reliever Alex Wilson, whose streak of scoreless innings ended at 16⅔.
He allowed singles to Xander Bogaerts, Betts and Ramirez (RBI). Justin Wilson replaced him and got an unusual 6-3-4 double play, but allowed the second run to score with a wild pitch.
Given the offense’s ineptitude of late, it seemed like a wrap. Until the eighth, the Tigers had scored two runs or less in nine of the last 15 games. In the 34 innings prior to the eighth, they had managed just four runs, three on solo homers.
“The thing I always try to look at when a team goes through something like this is, are you getting opportunities to score runs,” said McGehee. “We have been. Against Kansas City we had opportunities, we just didn’t get the big hit. Especially with this lineup, if you keep giving yourself opportunities, somebody is going to pop one.
“It was nice to see us string some together and pick up our pitching staff. They’ve done a great job keeping the other teams down.”