Hicks, Dixon provide fireworks as Tigers claim a rare road series win
Baltimore — John Hicks walked to the plate in the eighth inning Wednesday night carrying the weight of a 2-for-30 skid on his back. His strikeout in the third inning — in which he swung at a pitch that bounced and then took a called third strike — was his 14th in that span.
"Chasing pitches," he said. "You start pressing, you start changing things that don't need to be changed. Even in batting practice I wasn't feeling good."
On Monday, Hicks made a beeline for the batting cages underneath Orioles Park at Camden Yards.
"I said I was going to hit until I feel good," Hicks said. "I don't care if I was here all day. And I hit a lot, believe me. Finally something clicked and more back to what I do. I felt like I started to see the ball way better and I finally got a good pitch to hit."
With the Tigers trailing 2-1 and down to their final six outs, Hicks unloaded on a 95-mph fastball from right-hander Mychal Givens and sent it 432 feet into the second deck in left field.
It tied the score and then Brandon Dixon, who is on a seven-game tear, launched a two-run homer in the ninth and the Tigers got out of Baltimore with a 4-2 victory and their first road series win since they took two of three from the Yankees in the first week of the season.
"Winning a series on the road is big," said Dixon, who is now hitting .381 during his career-long seven-game hitting streak. "It doesn't matter who you play against."
It was also the first time the Tigers won two straight since they swept a double-header in Boston on April 23.
"Dixon's been swinging it good for us," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've been moving him around (defensively), trying to keep him in the lineup. That shows you why."
Dixon, who was immediately summoned by league officials for random drug testing after the game, has hit five home runs since being called up in May. Three of them have put the Tigers in front.
"I don't really think anything different in those situations," he said. "It just happens in the moment. But to be able to help the team out like that is huge."
The other two stars on this night for the Tigers were left-handed pitchers recently promoted from Triple-A Toledo — Ryan Carpenter and Nick Ramirez.
"It's kind of weird when you use two left-handers with about the same kind of stuff and they can go through a lineup like that," Gardenhire said. "Usually when you face a stacked right-handed lineup like that, you go to a right-hander.
"But they got through with their change-ups and breaking balls."
Carpenter, making his fourth start, gave up two runs (an RBI double by Renata Nunez and a solo home run by Keon Broxton) and four hits over five solid innings.
'He's gone through some rough times up here," Gardenhire said. "But his last couple of starts have been spot-on and that's been big for us. That's going to protect our bullpen."
Carpenter, though, was fortunate to get out of there with his face intact.
Two of the hardest hit balls he allowed went straight at his head. Dwight Smith, Jr., hit a liner that left his bat with an exit velocity of 102 mph in the fourth inning. Somehow, Carpenter was able to snag it.
In the fifth inning, Trey Mancini laced one at 108 mph. This time Carpenter could only fling his glove in front of his face. He knocked the ball down and had the presence of mind to pounce on it and get a force out at second base.
"The first one I saw a little better," Carpenter said. "I just reached for it a little bit and it landed in my glove. The second scared me more because it was closer to my face. I just tried to get out of the way."
Gardenhire and trainer Matt Rankin came out, more to give Carpenter a standing-eight count than anything else.
"He was OK, just a little paler shade of white," Gardenhire said.
Ramirez followed with three perfect innings and earned his first big-league win. He struck out five of nine hitters he faced.
"Nick's change-up is just ridiculous," Hicks said. "As a hitter, they know it's coming almost but you can't wait on it."
Ramirez threw 13 change-ups and got eight swings and misses.
"The change-up was good tonight," said Ramirez, who just a few years ago was a power-hitting first baseman in the Brewers system. "It helped my fastball. I could tell what their game plan was, they were sitting on the change-up. So I stayed hard and made them guess.
"It played to my advantage."
Closer Shane Greene finished it out, picking up his 18th save.