"It [stinks]. There's no way around it," Nick Castellanos summarized after Melky Cabrera's ninth-inning single nullified a three-homer rally in the top of the inning for a 5-4 loss in the finale. "We battled back both games, but we weren't able to close it out."
Said manager Brad Ausmus: "A little bit of a tough pill to swallow. But we'll move on."
The Tigers had rallied twice this season when trailing after eight innings, notably their eight-run ninth inning at Tampa Bay on June 30. They have four wins after trailing through seven innings. Sunday wasn't quite as big as the affair vs. the Rays, but the lift was similar.
Detroit's rally from a two-run deficit on Saturday night, capped by Castellanos' game-tying RBI single in the eighth, led to the rain-forced suspension and Sunday resumption. Whether Adam Eaton's walk-off single to win that game Sunday afternoon caused a hangover effect in a game that started 30 minutes later, or whether Sox starter Jose Quintana was just that good, the Tigers showed little signs of life for much of the second game.
Andrew Romine's eighth-inning solo homer broke up the shutout bid, but still left a three-run gap, creating a save situation for David Robertson following his win in the early game. Once Castellanos greeted Robertson with a drive to left field leading off the ninth, the Tigers had a glimmer of hope.
With an eight-man bullpen and three-man bench for much of the last two months, Ausmus has had few opportunities for pinch-hitting, generally saving the bench bats he has for a chance to make a difference. The Tigers' 32 pinch-hit at-bats ranked 11th in the 15-team American League. Once Robertson struck out Justin Upton and retired Mike Aviles to get within an out of the save, Ausmus took his shot in the 4-2 game.
Both Tyler Collins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were down to their last strike when they connected -- Collins on a cut fastball, Saltalamacchia on a curve. Both pulled them deep to right -- Collins into the right-field seats, Saltalamacchia into the Tigers' bullpen.
Together, they brought the Tigers back to life. Detroit hadn't put up two pinch-hit home runs in the same game since Ryan Raburn and Alex Avila did it against the White Sox at this same park on Sept. 14, 2011. Both of those were in the ninth inning to tie it, too.
The lift from that 2011 game carried them in the 10th. This time, they didn't get the chance. Seven pitches into the bottom of the ninth, the letdown was equal.
"Very high," Castellanos described the feeling in the dugout, "to very low."