DETROIT -- The Tigers and Mariners celebrated Christmas in July at Comerica Park Tuesday night by exchanging tape-measure home runs and game-changing rallies. The last of the latter, a pinch-hit grand slam from Franklin Gutierrez in the eighth inning, sent Seattle ahead for good before hanging on for an 11-9 win.
The Tigers' second loss with a blown late-inning lead in their last eight games was a potentially crushing blow in their effort to crawl closer in the AL Central and Wild Card races as trade rumors build around Detroit ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Their downfall -- they dropped under .500 at 46-47 with the loss -- came from the same bullpen that had been viewed as needing a major improvement -- and one of the relievers with whom Detroit tried to improve.
The Mariners had a 4-0 first-inning lead off Shane Greene, then 5-1 in the third after Nelson Cruz's 455-foot solo homer -- his 22nd home run off the season -- on a line into the second tier of center-field shrubs. Two-run shots from J.D. Martinez -- a third-inning drive over the center-field camera well for his 27th homer on the year -- and Yoenis Cespedes in the fifth tied the game off Taijuan Walker before Detroit pulled ahead.
Neftali Feliz, signed earlier this month after the Rangers designated him for assignment, entered with an 8-6 lead to start the eighth and a .121 career batting average (12-for-99) from Mariners hitters against him. However, they had gotten him for two runs on five hits this season. Three singles and a wild pitch closed the game to 8-7 with two outs. Feliz intentionally walked Seth Smith to face Gutierrez, who sent a 95-mph fastball deep to right field for his second career grand slam and the second pinch-hit grand slam in Mariners history.
"As a pinch-hitter, it's tough when you go up there," said Gutierrez, who was out of baseball last year with an arthritic condition called ankylosing spondylitis and was making just his 36th at-bat of the season for Seattle. "It doesn't matter how much you warm up when he's throwing 96 or 97. I just went up there looking for a fastball and he threw me one and I hit it good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Early and often: Scoring runs has been an issue for the Mariners much of the season, but they jumped on Greene for four tallies in the first with four hits, a hit batter and sacrifice fly. The Mariners were last in the Majors with a .207 average with runners in scoring position, but went 3-for-3 in that situation as Robinson Cano drove in a run with a single, Smith followed with an RBI double, Dustin Ackley hit the sacrifice fly and Brad Miller finished things off with a run-scoring single. It was the third time this season the Mariners scored four or more runs in the first.
More than Just Distance: J.D. Martinez's two-run homer over the camera well in straightaway center field was estimated at 467 feet by Statcast™, longest by any player at Comerica Park this season and -- given calculations from ESPN Stats and Information -- just ahead of Miguel Cabrera for the longest at CoPa since current calculations began in 2006. Just as big, however, was the impact it had on the Tigers offense, which went from a four-run deficit to a two-run game despite Greene's early struggles.
"They all count the same to me," Martinez said. "A lot of guys like to get caught up in that, see who can hit it farther. You don't get any bonus points for that." More >
Return of the Cruz missile: Cruz had been in a home run dry spell -- having gone 13 games without a long ball and totaling just three in his previous 47 games -- but the big man unloaded a leadoff blast in the third that was estimated at 455 feet by Statcast™ with a 110 mph launch speed off the bat. Cruz drove a 1-2 fastball by Greene well over Comerica's deep center field wall and into the second row of hedges adjacent to the camera well. Cruz's 22nd homer of the year gave the Mariners a short-lived 5-1 lead. More >
"A home run is a home run," said Cruz, "whether it's 401 or 450 feet."
"I've given up home runs before. [Houston's George] Springer hit a bomb off me last year that was pretty good. It was just a fastball right down the middle. He's got 27 home runs on the year, so it happens. It's power against power, so you kind of expect [the distance]." -- Walker, on giving up Martinez's blast
"It's right up there with the one in Minnesota," -- Ausmus, comparing Tuesday's blown lead with the Twins' seven-run ninth-inning rally against the Tigers July 10
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Gutierrez's grand slam was just the second in Mariners history by a pinch-hitter, the first being by Ben Broussard in 2007 against the Angels' Scot Shields. It was just the second slam of Gutierrez's career, the first coming in 2008 off Mark Buehrle, then of the White Sox.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Mariners catcher Mike Zunino was awarded first base in the top of the ninth when a crew-chief review overturned what originally was ruled a strikeout on a foul tip. After the play was reviewed, it was determined the ball hit Zunino's wrist.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners: Rookie left-hander Mike Montgomery (4-3, 2.51) makes his first start against the Tigers in a 4:08 p.m. PT start on Wednesday at Comerica Park. Montgomery has been outstanding since replacing the injured James Paxton in early June, though he has allowed eight runs and 15 hits over 11 innings in his last two starts against the Angels and Yankees.
Tigers: Anibal Sanchez, 6-0 with a 2.86 ERA over his last seven starts, will try to become Detroit's first 10-game winner this season when he takes the mound against the Mariners for the second time in three starts. He won with a quality start July 8 at Seattle despite five walks over 6 1/3 innings. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. ET.