Collins’ homers end slump, power Tigers over Orioles
Detroit — This is why baseball players, after a rough night, will always tell you that tomorrow is another day.
Because, invariably, it is. You can Google it.
And if anybody needed a fresh new day on Wednesday, it was Tigers center fielder Tyler Collins. Collins was not only in an 0-for-30 funk, he had also stranded the winning run on third base twice in the 11th and 12th innings Tuesday night.
Wednesday was another day.
Collins homered twice, including a game-changing, three-run bomb into the seats in right-center field in the fifth inning that sent the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the Orioles — a nice bounce-back after the 13-inning gut-punch Tuesday.
“It was a great day, yeah, absolutely,” Collins said. “But just like the bad ones, you've got to be able to bounce and move on to the next day and get ready to kick someone else's butt. Feels great but I'm ready for tomorrow.”
It was the first multi-home run game in Collins’ career. Both were hit off Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who has yielded more homers to the Tigers (15) than any other team he’s faced in his 307 big-league outings.
The first home run came in Collins' first at-bat, a monstrous blast into the visitor’s bullpen in right-center, and it tied the score in the bottom of the second inning.
“You can't get them over there,” he said. “It's obviously a good feeling to get the results that you strive for. At the same time, I have such faith and trust in my process. Even when I do go 0-for-30, I'm not going to lose morale or get down on myself because I know what I'm doing is right.”
The second home run came with the Tigers down 4-2. With two outs, Alex Avila doubled, sending J.D. Martinez to third. Collins sent a Jimenez fastball on a majestic arc into the right-center field seats.
“He threw me a cutter down and in and I just kind of dropped the barrel on it, and got enough backspin to get it out,” he said. “The situation is irrelevant, the count is irrelevant, the runners on base are all irrelevant. It's you vs. that pitcher.
“At the end of the day, you can zone everything else out. You've got your full attention focused on that channel. So there's no point in worrying about anything else.”
For good measure, Collins doubled off left-hander Richard Bleier in the eighth inning.
“Just because a guy’s average is down under .200 doesn’t mean he’s having bad at-bats,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of sticking with Collins through the slump. “For me, the main thing was, he wasn’t having bad at-bats. He just wasn’t getting results. Tonight, he got results.”
After starter Michael Fulmer bulldogged his way through another quality start — seven innings, four runs (three earned) — the skinny one-run lead was left in the hands of the bullpen. And speaking of players in need of a fresh, new day...
Less than 24 hours earlier, closer Justin Wilson gave up a two-run, tying home run to Mark Trumbo in the ninth inning. He was still shaking his head about that after Wednesday's game.
“I don’t want to say it was a fluke because Mark Trumbo is a great hitter,” he said. “But most guys probably take that pitch last night. He’s a big, strong guy and he got the barrel to it. For him to hit it on a line like that, I was pretty shocked out there.”
He was thirsting for redemption, and he got it.
“Huge,” he said. “That was exactly what I wanted — another chance. It was a tough one last night, a wild game on both sides. I was happy to get back out there.”
Alex Wilson, who hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven outings, set the table, pitching a quick and clean eighth, getting Trumbo, Jonathan Schoop and Wellington Castillo.
Wilson faced the bottom of the order in the ninth, the eighth and ninth hitters, then the top. If he played it right, he wouldn’t have to face the dangerous Adam Jones, Manny Machado or Chris Davis.
Didn’t happen that way.
Trey Mancini reached on a hard-hit ground ball that shortstop Jose Iglesias fielded but couldn't get a handle on to make a throw. It was scored a single. After J.J. Hardy struck out, Wilson walked pinch-hitter Joey Rickard and then fell behind Jones, 3-1.
He fought back and got Jones to fly to right, advancing Mancini to third.
Machado was next.
“My mindset was to challenge him,” Wilson said.
Throwing all mid-90s fastballs, he got ahead 1-2 and Machado got a favorable check swing call to even the count. After fouling off a 97-mph fastball, Wilson came right back, up and in with 97-mph heat.
Machado appeared to check his swing, but first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor ruled it strike three. The Orioles argued vehemently, but the game was over.
“I thought he went (around) a little more on the other one that we checked, but I’m not really sure,” Wilson said. “That pitch they called him out on, I didn’t want it up that much. I wanted it at his hands. I missed my spot a little but it worked out.
“I’d like it a little less nerve-wracking. I really didn’t want to get to Machado or even Jones. But they had some good at-bats. I didn’t have my best stuff tonight but it was good enough to get a save.”
And with that, another new day beckons.