'Just fun, man': Tigers' Nick Castellanos delivers walk-off homer in 10th

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Nick Castellanos connects on his first walk-off solo home run in the 10th inning, lifting the Tigers to a 4-3 win and their victory win at Comerica Park since June 29.

Detroit — It's funny sometimes how things come together. 

Before the game, John Hicks, who hit a 400-foot fly ball that was caught on the track in right-center field Saturday night, asked a question that hitters have been asking since the day Comerica Park opened.

“When are they ever going to move those fences in here?” he said. “We lost four home runs last night.”

Indeed, the Tigers did have four long fly balls swallowed up in the cavernous gaps. But Comerica Park plays mean to all hitters, not just Tigers' hitters. And on Sunday, it was the Blue Jays who were griping about the dimensions. 

"We'll get on second base or third base and they'll come up and be like, 'Man, how do you guys do this?'" Nick Castellanos said. "We play 81 games here, man. I don't want to hear about the two you hit that are questionable."

Another batch of long fly balls that would have been home runs in other parks died in outfielders' gloves Sunday, but there were two fairly dramatic ones that found seats.

In the top of the ninth, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. lined a cutter from Shane Greene 438 feet over the wall in center — a two-run home run that tied the game at 3. It was Greene's third blown save of the year.

But Castellanos answered that in the bottom of the 10th, hitting his first walk-off home run against lefty reliever Tim Mayza to end a six-game losing streak and give the Tigers a 4-3 win, their first win at Comerica since June 29.

"I love these guys," said Castellanos, who was mobbed and showered with Gatorade at home plate. "I love this team. We've been through a lot. The personalities on this team, they want to do good so bad because for a lot of them this is their first opportunity.

"The fact that they were jumping all over me and we're all smiling after a big win — that's a good moment." 

But the home run didn't soften Castellanos' feelings about the vastness of Comerica Park.

"This park is a joke," he said. "It's to the point where how are we going to be compared to the rest of the people in the league in terms of power numbers, OPS, slugging and all that stuff when we got a yard out here that's 420 feet straight across center field?

"I mean, they can move in center and right-center field. There's no reason I hit a ball 434 feet off (Nationals right-hander) Anibal Sanchez and it goes in the first row. That shouldn't happen. But, I'm not in charge of that, either."

You know who wasn't complaining about the dimensions? Tigers rookie starter Tyler Alexander. 

From the third through the fifth inning, the Blue Jays hit seven straight fly balls off him.  Four of them went to the warning track — all of them had exit velocities of 100 mph or better and each traveled at least 350 feet.

And all of them were caught, including one by center fielder JaCoby Jones as he was crashing into the wall in center field.

"I felt early on I was up and they hit some balls that were very fortunately caught," Alexander said. "If the fences were 10 feet in, I think we'd be have a different conversation."

But they are not 10 feet in and loud outs, as the Tigers' hitters know too well, are merely outs.

Alexander, a left-hander making his second start for the Tigers, walked off the mound after the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead having allowed just three hits and dispatching 14 straight Blue Jays hitters.

"Our starting pitcher threw the ball fantastic," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was a great performance on his part. He used the ballpark. That's what you've got to do. He took advantage of it. 

"Let them hit it straight away. That's a big area out there and we've got a great center fielder (Jones) who can run them down."

Alexander is just the second Tigers starter to go seven full innings in 20 games dating back to June 26 — and the first not named Matthew Boyd.

He featured a six-pitch mix, but he masterfully set up his change-up and curveball with well-located four-seam and two-seam fastballs. He ended up throwing nine change-ups, getting five swings and misses.

"Our goal was to pitch hard in and soft away," said Alexander, who will most likely remain in the Tigers' rotation at least until Spencer Turnbull returns off the injured list. "I didn't want to overuse the change-up. I just wanted to slow them down and get them with the heater."

Jones, along with the five-star catch, led the Tigers’ offense. He singled and scored in the third inning — after a double by Castellanos and a groundout by Jeimer Candelario — and then he whacked his 10th home run of the year in the fifth.

Castellanos, who increased his Major League-leading doubles total to 34, had three hits on the day.

"It was just fun, man, I don't know how else to describe it," Castellanos said. "Especially since we hadn't won in a minute. I enjoyed it, my teammates enjoyed it, the fans enjoyed it — I am happy we won."


Twitter: @cmccosky