'One hit changing things?' J.D. sparks needed win

'One hit changing things?' J.D. sparks needed win

BALTIMORE -- Over the course of a 162-game season, some pitches, hits and wins count more than others. The Tigers were four outs away from a 12th loss in 13 games on Sunday, the kind of stretch that can lead to significant changes.

Then J.D. Martinez held off from swinging at an oh-so-close 2-2 pitch.

Then Martinez turned on the next offering from Orioles reliever Darren O'Day for a game-tying home run.

Then Miguel Cabrera mashed the next pitch from the submariner for a go-ahead blast.

Must C: Tigers go back-to-back

Then the bullpen finished off the 6-5 win, securing the first Major League victory for rookie reliever Warwick Saupold.

Saupold fans Alvarez

Then the Tigers roared in the visiting clubhouse inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards, because some pitches, hits and wins count more than others.

"I think it's well-established we needed a win," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after Detroit's second victory since May 1. "This was a nail-biter of a win. Seesaw back-and-forth type of game. We've talked about maybe one hit changing things. J.D.'s hit might have been that."

That type of hit, a home run off a dominant setup man not known for serving up long balls, seemed unlikely -- perhaps especially so for a team unable to catch a break.

Trailing, 5-4, in the eighth inning and facing a 2-2 count, Martinez didn't give in on O'Day's tempting slider, and home-plate umpire Jeff Kellogg didn't rule it strike three.

"It was close," Martinez said. "I thought I held up. I looked at it. It was borderline. Could have gone either way. Fortunately it went our way."

So did the next two pitches. O'Day threw a fastball and Martinez was ready, sending the ball over the center-field wall. Cabrera followed that jolt with one of his own. The back-to-back homers came off a reliever who had allowed only one long ball in 16 appearances.

"Things have been going against us. It's nice when you can get something going your way like that," Martinez said.

Detroit's relievers kept Baltimore off the scoreboard following Manny Machado's two-run home run off starter Michael Fulmer in the fifth. Saupold pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Francisco Rodriguez worked the ninth for his ninth save after watching most of the lengthy back-and-forth game from the bullpen.

K-Rod gets the save

"It was just kind of weird. It was too long," Rodriguez said of the nearly four-hour game. "But the good thing is we're going home with momentum."

On May 2, Detroit sported a 14-10 record. Even with Sunday's win, they head home at 16-21. Despite the struggles, they've kept their heads up.

"They've never quit. They never stopped. They never moped," Ausmus said. "They do their work every day. It stinks to lose, but these guys go about it the right way. I'd be shocked if they rolled over."

Buzz of a potential managerial change hung in their air as the losses mounted.

"You hate to think that your manager's job is on the line, because it's really not his fault," Martinez said. "It's just a big win all the way around."

That's because over the course of a season and even though all wins are equal in the standings, some matter more.

Ben Standig is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Tigers on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.