Detroit — Drama devils that they so often can be, the Tigers turned what could have been a no-sweat triumph into a suspense thriller Saturday at Comerica Park before they beat the Mariners, 4-3, in the first game of a doubleheader.
Jose Iglesias’ two-run homer in the sixth, and two RBI singles from rookie catcher Grayson Greiner, melded with six-plus innings of sturdy work by starter Matthew Boyd to give the Tigers a victory on a day they outhit Seattle, 12-4, and might easily have won by a bunch.
They got a likely game-saving catch — although it didn’t appear to be a catch — from JaCoby Jones in the ninth when, with one out and one on, he made a diving, sliding stab of Ryon Healy’s short, sinking liner.
While it appeared they had a case, the Mariners decided against asking for a replay, which might or might not have been the case had their regular manager, Scott Servais, not been at his daughter’s graduation, replaced by acting skipper Manny Acta.
“We had a bit of miscommunication over the phone, but we’re not going to blame the game on that one,” Acta said afterward. “It needed to be challenged after the fact when I saw it. We had a miscommunication over the phone about it and I’m not going to point fingers. We lose as a team. It shouldn’t happen but it did.”
Jones’ acrobatics — and reprieve — were doubly appreciated by the Tigers and by closer Shane Greene when Mike Zunino followed with a bloop single to center to put runners at the corners. Greene next walked Ben Gamel, batting .191, on an eight-pitch at-bat that delivered dangerous Dee Gordon, batting .333, to the plate with the bases loaded.
On an 0-2 pitch, Gordon rapped a grounder to John Hicks at first for an unassisted game-ender.
Jones also had a single and a double as he policed center field with Leonys Martin on the disabled list.
“The jumps on the ball are incredible,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, talking about Jones’ sprinting, sliding catch in the ninth. “He might do some wacko things once in a while, but we love it.”
It wasn’t necessarily wacko, but one Jones pratfall came in the second after he had drilled a leadoff single to center against Mariners starter Marco Gonzales.
Jones, who has lots of latitude on the base paths, decided a steal would be helpful against the left-handed Gonzales. There was one problem: Gonzales’ move to first, which caught Jones tipping toward second. He was thrown out on a relay from Healy, playing first, to second baseman Robinson Cano.
Jones’ disappearance stung even more when Iglesias and Dixon Machado followed with singles, minus any Tigers runs.
Along with Jones’ cut-down, the Tigers grounded into three double plays, none more painful than in the first when Gonzales was touched for a single sandwiched around a pair of one-out walks.
Hicks stepped to the plate and promptly banged a first-pitch breaking ball to Cano, who stepped on second and fired to first for the first of the day’s inning-killers.
“We misfired,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve had that trouble, not getting ‘em in.
“You’ve got to be patient,” he said, speaking of Hicks’ early swing, “and get a pitch you can drive.”
With Miguel Cabrera on the disabled list, and Victor Martinez resting ahead of the night’s second game, the Tigers were fighting all day for a big hit or big inning that only Iglesias could deliver when, on a 3-2 count, he lined a Marco Gonzales fastball into the left-field seats in the Tigers’ three-run sixth.
Jones had spurred the rally, with two outs, when he lined a double off the knee of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager.
Greiner followed with a hard ground single to right, scoring Jones. Iglesias then decided the Tigers’ teasing had gone on long enough as he hammered Gonzales’ pitch on a line well beyond the bullpen in left.
Boyd began beautifully, throwing only 35 pitches through a hitless first three innings. He lost command as the game moved on, and he nearly lost the Tigers’ lead.
“He was mad at himself,” said Gardenhire, who had to switch pitchers with two on and none out in the seventh. “He’s very intense. And he knows how to pitch.”
Boyds lasted 94 pitches, 56 of which were strikes. It was his work, early with a slider against the Mariners’ right-handed bashers, that worked artfully in the early innings.
“Yeah, no excuse for that,” said Boyd, who struck out six and walked three. “Just need to be a little sharper and make a few more pitches. “
Boyd is now 2-3 on the year, with a 3.21 ERA.
The Mariners scored a run against him in the fifth on a leadoff walk, a one-out single, and Gordon’s sacrifice fly.
They got two more in the seventh after Boyd hit Seager, the leadoff batter, then was ripped for a double by Healy to put runners at second and third.
He departed and on came Buck Farmer, who got back-to-back ground-outs to Hicks, each of which brought home a Mariners run to cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-3.
Joe Jimenez tossed a scoreless eighth (one strikeout, no hits) ahead of Greene’s tense closeout in the ninth.
The Tigers and Mariners were rained out Friday, forcing Saturday’s double feature. Michael Fulmer was to pitch in the late game against Felix Hernandez.