Detroit — The Tigers on Saturday did what their manager has been encouraging them to do over the last week — stop trying and start doing.
That Ron Gardenhire wasn't around to see the Tigers rally back twice and snap an eight-game losing streak with a 7-5 win over the Washington Nationals was beside the point.
"It's funny because our fight level has been there, it's just that it actually panned out today," said Blaine Hardy, one of five relievers who kept the Nationals at bay. "This team comes in every single day trying to do everything 100 percent perfect.
"But it's baseball, so that never happens. But everybody is psyched right now because we did everything the right way and we came out with a win."
Pretty good day at the old ballpark all around for the home team.
It started with a glorious tribute to the 1984 Tigers championship team and, in front of a lively and engaged crowd (27,716 paid), it ended with the first win at Comerica Park since June 8. In between, there were some spectacular defensive plays and another flamboyant ejection for Gardenhire.
"He keeps us in it," Hardy said. "He keeps us excited to go out there and compete every day...We know he's fighting for us. We know he has our best interests in mind. We see him go out and draw a line in the dirt, it excites us."
Miguel Cabrera led the charge, knocking in three runs with three hits. His two-run single in the fifth inning lifted the Tigers out of a 3-0 hole. His RBI single in the seventh triggered the pivotal three-run rally.
"How he's able to slow his heartbeat down in key situations, that's what Hall of Famers do," said acting manager Steve Liddle. "They produce. He's an RBI producer."
Cabrera's three RBIs gave him 1,669 in his career and pushed him past Sammy Sosa to 27th on the all-time list.
"We played the game about as good as we could," Hardy said. "We had a rough seventh inning but our hitters didn't think anything of it, just came in and scored some more runs."
Down 5-3, Nationals reliever Tanner Rainey walked the first two hitters and allowed the single to Cabrera. Then against lefty Tony Sipp, left-handed hitting Christin Stewart lofted a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
With two outs, Niko Goodrum, who has been fighting it at the plate recently, gave the Tigers their first lead in six days with a base hit to left.
"Gardy talked to the team last night about playing all nine innings," Liddle said. "We got down, we made a couple of mistakes in the field (in the top of the seventh), but the guys picked each other up.
"It was really good to see Niko get that clutch hit."
Relievers Joe Jimenez (scoreless eighth) and closer Shane Greene locked it down. For Greene, it was his 22nd save.
Gardenhire, though, wasn’t around for any of that.
"I've been around Ronny for a long time and that was probably the quickest ejection I've seen in my 14 years with him," Liddle said. "Just arguing balls and strikes."
Gardenhire blew up at home plate umpire Mark Ripperger during the Nationals three-run fourth inning. Rookie left-hander Gregory Soto, making his sixth spot start this season, yielded a home run to Anthony Rendon and then an RBI double to Brian Dozier.
Gardenhire was on his way to remove him from the game, but he made a quick right turn and went after Ripperger. Already booted, he scratched at the plate with his feet, trying to show that there were corners on both sides.
Apparently, Gardenhire thought the umpire had squeezed Soto on a 2-2 pitch on the outside edge. Dozier hit the next pitch for a double.
"I really, really appreciate that," Soto said through interpreter Carlos Guillen. "That pitch, if it was a strike, I would be able to come out with four innings and just one run. Instead, it's 3.2 innings and three runs.
"It was a huge pitch and I really appreciate Gardy for doing that."
It was the seventh ejection of the season for Gardenhire, a club record for managers and one short of his career single-season high.
It’s a good thing he was in his office when the Tigers left the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth. After three straight singles — Cabrera, Stewart and Jeimer Candelario — Nationals starter Austin Voth walked Goodrum to force in a run.
That brought up John Hicks, who was called out on a 2-2 pitch on the same outer edge that Gardenhire had argued should have been a strike for Soto.
"Ron has a history of that," Liddle said of Gardenhire's penchant for sticking up for his players. "You look up players' manager in the dictionary and it's his picture there. That's just how he is.
"He's going to fight and I think his players respect him for that."