'A win is a win': Tigers' bats explode, pitching implodes
Detroit — Here’s the thing: There is no such thing as a bad win.
When you KO an ace pitcher like Seattle’s Felix Hernandez in two innings, when you bash out 24 hits and score 19 runs and kick off a 10-game home stand with a 10-run victory — there is no need to apologize.
“A win is a win,” catcher James McCann said after the Tigers' 19-9 romp over the Mariners on Tuesday. “I honestly couldn’t care less how you get it. A win is a win. Obviously, we need to do a better job of throwing strikes; if this wasn’t a blowout we would have been in trouble.”
The final three innings left a bad taste. Manager Brad Ausmus needed to use five relievers to finish off a game with a double-digit lead.
“It can’t happen,” he said. “You can give up runs but you can’t walk guys and you can’t get behind hitters. We walked too many. Whatever it was, there is no excuse for it. The truth is, we have to throw strikes. I don’t care if it’s a one-run game or a 15-run game.”
Shane Greene, with an 11-run lead, could only get two outs in the seventh. He walked two and allowed a run, leaving the bases loaded for Alex Wilson — who ended the inning on two pitches.
Kyle Ryan, who pitched just two-thirds of an inning since April 18, also walked two and gave up a run in the eighth.
Joe Jimenez got the first two hitters in the ninth, but then he walked the next two. At 22 pitches, Ausmus replaced him with Blaine Hardy.
“That was more about his pitch count,” Ausmus said. “We want to be able to use him tomorrow.”
Hardy gave up a couple of singles, which scored two runs, and a walk before getting the final out.
Seven walks in three innings with a double-digit lead. Sub-optimal.
“You are going to have games like that, but it’s frustrating,” Ausmus said. “It boils down to throwing strikes. It’s as simple as that.”
On to brighter topics.
Hernandez has had a lot of memorable games at Comerica Park. He has all but owned the Tigers over the years. Tuesday night, however, was not one of them.
The Tigers tagged him for four runs and six hits. Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton doubled off him in the first and James McCann hit a two-run home run in the second. He didn’t return for the third, marking just the third time in his brilliant career that he lasted two innings or less.
“We swung the bat well,” Ausmus said. “That was the bright spot of the game. Everybody in the lineup, everybody that played, contributed something offensively.”
Later it was revealed that Hernandez was dealing with shoulder stiffness and a dead arm. He was put on a plane back to Seattle for more tests.
Hot-hitting Mariners rookie Mitch Haniger was also sent home. He injured his oblique in the third inning.
The Tigers hadn’t beat Hernandez since Aug. 16, 2014, and only once in 15 starts had they scored more than three runs against him. He was riding a streak of 11 straight starts against the Tigers in which he limited them to three runs or fewer.
And the Tigers kept hitting. And hitting. And hitting.
Upton and Alex Avila hit back-to-back home runs off reliever Chris Heston in the fourth. It was the fourth home run for both. Avila’s landed in the bullpen in left-center field — a 428-foot blast.
Between McCann’s five home runs and Avila’s four, the Tigers lead the major leagues in home runs from the catcher position. Last year, McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia combined for 24 home runs.
“Speaking for both of us, it’s just about having quality at-bats,” said McCann. “We’re looking to be a tough out every time we step up to the plate. When that happens, and you stay within yourself and you get a good pitch to hit, that can be the result.”
Then came the fifth.
Thirteen Tigers came to the plate and nine more runs were scored. Tyler Collins knocked in three with a single and double. Kinsler had two singles and two RBIs. Nick Castellanos had a two-run single. Andrew Romine had two singles and an RBI. Another run was scored on a bases-loaded walk to McCann.
The nine runs were the most the Tigers have scored in an inning since they scored eight, also in the fifth inning, against the Rangers on Sept. 17, 2008.
When it was all said and done, the Tigers banged out 24 hits. In their last two games, they’ve produced 32 runs and 37 hits. And that without slugger Miguel Cabrera.
Kinsler had four hits and scored four runs. Collins, Avila and Romine each had three. Jim Adduci also had three hits — single, double and his first career triple. Upton had a double and home run. McCann had four RBIs. Mikie Mahtook hit his first home run as a Tiger, a two-run shot in the eighth.
The two teams combined for 40 hits, setting the Comerica Park record for a nine-inning game. They broke the previous mark of 38, set on April 13, 2006, with the White Sox.
Jordan Zimmermann didn’t need all of that run support — but he needed a lot of it.
“The toughest part of having a big lead is you have to come to the hitter in hitter’s counts,” Ausmus said. “If it’s 1-0, the hitter is sitting fastball and you want to throw a fastball because you want to throw strikes. Hitters end up getting some free swings. That was the case with Zimmermann.”
After giving up a pair of runs in the first inning, he worked his way through the fourth, getting clutch double-play balls in the second, third and fourth. Then the ball started leaving the yard off him.
Jean Segura and Danny Valencia hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth. Nelson Cruz led off the sixth with a monster shot into the center-field shrubbery.
“Once we got all those runs, I just tried to attack and fill up the zone,” said Zimmermann, who allowed five runs and 11 hits in six innings. “Solo home runs are going to happen when you have a big lead and you are trying to go deep in the game.
“I thought I pitched OK. I’m glad we got the win. Tomorrow is another day.”