Tigers reward Verlander for gem with walk-off

Tigers reward Verlander for gem with walk-off

DETROIT -- Justin Verlander and Mike Fiers dueled deep into Saturday night at Comerica Park. Dueling ninth-inning rallies overshadowed their work, from Carlos Correa's lunging single in a two-run Astros comeback to Jose Iglesias' walk-off infield single for a 3-2 Tigers win at Comerica Park.

Detroit's fifth straight win pushed the Tigers a half-game ahead of the Astros in the American League Wild Card chase, trailing the Orioles and Red Sox. The Tigers remain 4 1/2 games behind the Indians in the AL Central.

Verlander (11-6) took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning, having thrown just 96 pitches while holding Houston hitless from the second inning, before George Springer and Jose Altuve singled. Correa caught a 1-2 curveball off the plate and blooped it into center for a one-out single to tie the game. Altuve aggressively went from first to third on the play, setting up the go-ahead run on Colby Rasmus' fielder's-choice ground ball to short.

Verlander records 10th strikeout

 "You have to tip your cap," Verlander said. "[Correa] hit a pitch that, I went and looked at it, it was in the other batter's box."

Correa's game-tying single

The rally got Fiers off the hook for a loss. He allowed an unearned run on four hits over 6 1/3 innings, but Will Harris (1-2) still had to close it out. He retired Victor Martinez and struck out Andrew Romine before a walk to Justin Upton sparked a two-out rally.

"Maybe the late-inning rally is contagious," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, "and guys have some adrenaline. We seem to rally against some pretty good back-end relievers, including closers, and tonight was another one."

After Tyler Collins' single put the winning run on, McCann was down to his last strike before hitting a curveball for a line drive to left. Collins went from first to third on the play, putting him in position to dash home on Iglesias' ground ball to first. Iglesias outran Harris to the bag, getting his foot in ahead of the throw from first baseman Jason Castro, who shifted to the position from catcher late in the game.

McCann's game-tying RBI single

"The game can be your friend when you put the ball in play," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Iglesias did that, and we go away losing."

Iglesias eeks it out:
Iglesias has drawn praise for his aggressive baserunning in recent days, but his legs came through on his way to first base Saturday. By breaking hard from his first step out of the batter's box, he was able to put pressure on Harris to take a throw and find the bag at the same time. Harris' split-second to locate the bag was enough time for Iglesias to beat him there. Replay review on Hinch's challenge confirmed the call.

"I've seen him do it before," Verlander said. "He flies down the line when he can smell a hit. It was kind of a tough play with the first baseman going in the hole and having to throw to the pitcher."

Defense betrays Astros: Defensive miscues didn't do the Astros any favors. Second baseman Altuve, a Gold Glove Award winner, couldn't catch a popup off the bat of Miguel Cabrera in the sixth inning, allowing Cameron Maybin to score the game's first run. In the ninth, a throwing error by Alex Bregman -- making his first appearance in left field in a big league game -- allowed Collins to advance to third following McCann's single. Collins scored when Harris was beat to the bag by Iglesias.

Altuve can't handle popup

"I should've found the bag and then caught the ball," Harris said. "I tried to catch the ball and then find the bag. It was just a bonehead play by me. There's no other way to put it. I screwed up. It was just a bonehead mistake."

Run until you can't: While Cabrera slammed his bat into the ground upon popping up in the sixth, Maybin took off, accelerating as he rounded third base and leaving third-base coach Dave Clark's stop sign a moot point. Maybin slid in just ahead of catcher Castro's tag, his aggressive baserunning paying off.

Maybin comes around on error

Fiers battles Verlander: As the Astros scour the trade market for a starting pitcher to plug into the rotation, Fiers responded with perhaps his best outing of the season. It was the first time this year he pitched into the seventh inning and didn't allow an earned run, and it was the third time this season he hasn't allowed an earned run. Fiers has two walks or fewer in 17 of his 19 starts.

"I felt really good obviously, throwing all my pitches for strikes," Fiers said. "I'm really locating the ball a lot better. I'm just trying to keep these guys off balance as much as possible, and I think I did that tonight."

Fiers fans six in start

"He's our ace. He's our horse. There's probably nobody else on this staff I'd send out there with a 1-0 lead in the ninth, but he's the one guy I would." -- Ausmus, on Verlander.

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (6-10, 4.57 ERA) takes the mound for the Astros in Sunday's 12:10 p.m. CT series finale at Comerica Park. He's recorded seven consecutive quality starts, going 3-1 with a 2.72 ERA, 11 walks and 34 strikeouts in that span.

Tigers: Mike Pelfrey (3-9, 4.98) has given up either one run or five in all five of his July starts so far. He'll hope for the former when he gets the ball Sunday in a 1:10 p.m. ET start. Pelfrey tossed six innings of one-run ball in Houston on April 15, but walked six Astros along the way.

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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.