Detroit — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire hasn’t said much about the futility records the Tigers have been flirting with this season. But it’s been on his mind. Of course it has.
“As long as the clubhouse is active and fun, I can handle all of that,” he said before Saturday's game against the Baltimore Orioles. “It’s tough, yes. I don’t sleep at night, yes. But I can handle it because these guys have been getting after it. … We’re just trying not to lose 60 at home. We don’t want to set any records.”
The clubhouse was plenty active and fun Saturday night after John Hicks delivered a walk-off, grand slam home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Tigers a wild, 8-4 win over the Orioles.
"I was just trying to get a ball in the air and get a sac fly at least," said Hicks, whose only previous walk-off hit in the big-leagues was a bunt single last year against Tampa Bay. "I got a slider down in the zone and I was able to go down and get it.
"When I hit it, I knew it was going to do the job. But at that point I was hoping it would go over the fence. Four RBIs are better than one, right? I was just excited to get to home plate and celebrate with everybody."
With eight games left, the Tigers need two more wins at Comerica Park to avoid being the first team ever to lose 60 home games in a season. Not that Gardenhire has mentioned that to his players.
"I don’t want those guys to have any more pressure than they have now,” he said. “I don’t want the players to think about stuff like that. Us coaches, we talk about it all the time. It’s definitely on our brains.
“But I don’t want to bring up negative stuff. We try to stay as positive as we can.”
Said Hicks: "I didn't know about that until you just said that. We know things haven't gone our way a lot but we show up every day and a lot of young guys are getting an opportunity to play and we're going out and fighting."
The Tigers came to bat in the 12th trailing by a run. Orioles' Rio Ruiz made the Tigers pay for a pair of two out walks, singling home the go-ahead run off Daniel Stumpf.
But the Tigers loaded the bases with one out against Waterford Kettering and St. Clair Community College product Paul Fry, who walked Harold Castro and gave up a double to Travis Demeritte.
After an intentional walk to Dawel Lugo, the Orioles brought in right-hander Ryan Eades to face Brandon Dixon.
Eades walked him on four pitches to force in the tying run and then fell behind 2-0 to Hicks before throwing the slider in his happy zone.
"That was pretty special," Hicks said.
The Tigers were one out from losing this one in regulation, too. But with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Victor Reyes slammed a dramatic, tying solo home run off Orioles closer Mychal Givens.
"He's playing awesome," Hicks said. "I don't know if I'd say I was surprised. We seen him come into spring training and he was a lot bigger and he was swinging the bat much more aggressively. That was a clutch home run for us.
"He's been swinging the bat really well for us and playing good outfield. It's awesome to see how much he's gotten better."
Harold Castro, who has been hitting .313 since July 2, hit his fifth home run of the season and Reyes had an RBI single that put the Tigers up 2-0 and in control through seven innings.
The pitching tandem of Daniel Norris and Drew VerHagen — NorHagen as they may yet come to be known — continues to impress. Norris (three innings, one hit) and VerHagen (four innings, three hits) combined to throw seven shutout innings.
The Orioles put a runner in scoring position just once in seven innings against NorHagen.
"It's about those two pitchers," Gardenhire said. "Norris knows what he's going to do. It's not like he's saving pitches so he can go deep in the game. He's attacking and really going right at them.
"And VerHagen has been fantastic."
But the first plot twist game in the top of the eighth. The Tigers gave the ball to rookie right-hander Bryan Garcia, whom they see as a future set-up man. He looked up for the part.
"I'm really impressed with him," Gardenhire said. "He's throwing the living crap out of the ball. He's got a good arm and we've talked about the kid has a chance to be in our future here next year.
"We want to take a look at him."
Garcia struck out pinch-hitters D.J. Stewart and Rio Ruiz before things got a little dicey. He gave up two-strike singles to Hanser Alberto and Jonathan Villar — and they advanced to third and second on an ill-advised throw by left fielder Christin Stewart.
With first base open, the Tigers had the pick-your-poison option to walk Trey Mancini and pitch to Anthony Santander. Pitching coach Rick Anderson walked to the mound to discuss it with Garcia.
"We told him he didn't have to attack (Mancini), just make good pitches," Gardenhire said. "There was a base open. But just putting him on and put all that pressure on the kid isn't great either. Let's just see what he can do, see if he can pitch around a guy.
"We wanted to make him chase, but he just hung one."
Mancini blasted his 32nd home run of the season to put the Orioles up 3-2.
The Tigers had to pull Miguel Cabrera out of the game in the seventh inning because of right knee soreness. He wasn't going to be in the lineup Sunday regardless, but he will be evaluated day to day.