Detroit — Like Crash Davis might’ve said, “If you think you are winning games because of a goose, then you are.”
The Tigers continue to ride the Rally Goose mojo. They won their third straight since the goose flew into the facing of the third deck Wednesday night, beating the Blue Jays, 5-2, Friday night.
As endearing as the goose has been, though, this win was borne of gritty pitching, great defense by a shortstop who is too often overlooked in a sea of elite Major-League shortstops and another big inning by the Tigers.
“I credit Iggy (Jose Iglesias) for this win,” said Tigers starter Blaine Hardy, who for the fourth straight time limited his opponent to two runs or less. “That was probably the best I’ve seen him play shortstop. It was impressive to watch. It was fun to watch and it gave me confidence to make my pitches.”
Hardy came in after the fourth inning and jokingly told manager Ron Gardenhire he didn’t need any other infielders besides Iglesias, and first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who was back in the lineup after missing 26 games.
“That’s gold glove, boys, I am telling you,” Gardenhire said of Iglesias. “That was one hell of a defensive night. I haven’t seen one like that in a long time.”
Iglesias started two double plays — the second one with a fantastic stab on a ball hit by Randal Grichuk — and he assisted on all three outs in the fourth inning. Two of those were highlight-reel worthy.
He took a single away from Justin Smoak ranging deep in the hole toward third. Then he made a quick stab of a ball hit with an exit velocity of 96 mph, spinning clockwise 180-degrees to rob Kevin Pillar.
“He makes those plays look easy,” Gardenhire said. “He makes it look routine, but it’s not. He was spectacular.”
Iglesias also doubled, stole third and scored in the Tigers’ four-run second inning.
“That’s my job,” he said of his glove work. “That’s a big part of me. I can help this team in so many ways and that’s one of them.”
The four-run outburst came against Blue Jays left-handed starter Jaime Garcia.
JaCoby Jones delivered a two-run triple to the gap in right center, and scored on a ground out by Leonys Martin. Then Iglesias did his thing and scored a single by Jeimer Candelario — who was moved up to the leadoff spot in the order against the left-hander.
Candelario has now reached base in 26 straight games — the longest active streak in baseball.
Garcia didn’t finish the second inning and the Tigers would face a parade of right-handers the rest of the way.
The only run they got the rest of the way was a solo home run by Nick Castellanos leading off the seventh against Tyler Clippard. It was his sixth home run of the season and his third hit of the game. He has 23 multi-hit games this season and leads the American League with 11 three-hit games.
“Nicky had a heck of a night,” Gardenhire said. “He’s a hitter. He works at his craft. He’s just a good hitter. Nothing surprises me with him.”
Castellanos’ blast gave the Tigers a three-run cushion, which was useful since the bullpen mainstays — Warwick Saupold, Louis Coleman and Joe Jimenez were unavailable.
“The anxiety was high,” said Gardenhire, who had to get creative to patch things through to closer Shane Greene. “But it was good to see some other people out there…Other people have to do something here because we are killing those other guys.”
Buck Farmer, who had been tagged for 11 runs in his last 4.2 innings of work, escaped trouble in the seventh. Aledmys Diaz hit a double to right center that would have scored Devon Travis from first had it not bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double.
Farmer then got Teoscar Hernandez to fly out, stranding runners at second and third.
"Farmer needed to get back out there," Gardenhire said. "He'd been sitting for three days after having some rough outings. It wasn't beautiful but he got us through the inning and got the big outs."
Right-hander Johnny Barbato, called up from Toledo on Wednesday, loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth on a walk, an infield single (misplayed by second baseman Ronny Rodriguez) and a hit batsman.
He gave way to Artie Lewicki, who has been working in long relief for the Tigers after being in the starting rotation at Triple-A Toledo. He got the biggest out of the game, getting Travis, a former Tigers prospect, to ground out to end the inning.
“I think Artie is trusting himself more now with the innings he’s eaten up for us,” Gardenhire said. “He’s been huge. We wanted to get through the eighth with Barbato but when he misfired there, we said we had to get him out.
“Lewicki really picked us up. He’s been huge.”
Greene, working for the third straight game, closed it out in the ninth for his 14th save.
“I think Greeney called the dugout and said he’d go in the eighth,” Gardenhire said. “He’s out of this world.”
Asked if he was trying to avoid using Greene, Gardenhire said, “There’s no way. He’d tackle somebody if they tried to run out there for the ninth. He’s a rubber-armed guy. Closers all have that mentality.”
All of that to preserve the second straight win for Hardy.
“My command was off today,” said Hardy, who only allowed three hits, but walked four. “Having that defense behind me really paid off. I know I could just make my pitches and let them do their job.”