DETROIT -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Miguel Cabrera hit two-run singles in a five-run fourth inning before the Tigers held on late for their 10th win in 11 games with a 6-5 victory over the Mets on Saturday night at Comerica Park.
The Mets sent the potential tying run around third base with three consecutive two-out singles in the ninth off Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez, but J.D. Martinez -- who returned from the disabled list earlier this week after missing six weeks with a fractured elbow -- threw out Jay Bruce at the plate for the final out of the game. Mets manager Terry Collins said afterward that he made a mistake not challenging the play, even if the result likely would not have changed.
"It's not often you see a walk-off throw at the plate," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Doesn't get much closer than that, I guess. But he got the job done again."
The win pushed the Tigers past the Red Sox for sole possession of the second American League Wild Card spot. Detroit remained two games behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central race. The Mets, meanwhile, remained two games behind the Marlins and Cardinals -- who both lost -- for the second National League Wild Card spot.
One night after Justin Verlander and Noah Syndergaard dueled in the series opener, the Tigers opened a big lead in the fourth inning off Mets starter Logan Verrett (3-7). A Victor Martinez double, J.D. Martinez single and Nick Castellanos hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Saltalamacchia, who lined a base hit into right field. Three consecutive two-out singles from the top of the order, capped by Cabrera's line drive to right, built a 6-1 lead.
"It's a tough lineup, man," Verrett said. "They're stacked, one through nine. They're all tough outs. They have a very good awareness of the strike zone. I felt like I made some pretty good pitches today that normally I get swings at, and that wasn't the case today."
The rally gave Tigers left-hander Matt Boyd (3-2) a big lead to protect for the second consecutive start. He gave up solo homers to Bruce and Curtis Granderson, but held on for five innings of three-run ball before Alex Wilson thwarted a threat in the sixth.
Castellanos' hit-by-pitch came at a price, fracturing the fifth metacarpal in his left hand. He left the game after the inning, replaced by Mike Aviles.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Just Delivering: The question with J.D. Martinez upon his return from the DL wasn't so much his hitting as it was his arm following his elbow injury, especially with less than a week of games in right field on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo. His strong, on-target throw home on Travis d'Arnaud's single answered the question, hitting Saltalamacchia on one hop in position to make the tag on Bruce, who never touched home plate. More >
"I tried my best to slide into home plate," Bruce said. "They called me out. That's really all of it. I was just focused on trying to get there."
Bruce goes yard: Though Giancarlo Stanton later outshined him with a 504-foot blast in Denver, Bruce's solo homer off Boyd to right-center in the fourth inning was no cheap shot. Statcast™ projected it to land 430 feet from home plate, the ninth-longest homer by a Met this season, and fourth-longest blast by any Met not named Yoenis Cespedes.
Salty sends them home: While Saltalamacchia's .205 batting average doesn't impress, he continues to put up productive hits when the Tigers need him. His 35th hit of the season produced his 33rd RBI. Nine of those RBIs have come with the bases loaded.
Taking (sort of) advantage: When the Tigers gifted the Mets two runs in the seventh inning on consecutive errors, the Mets were happy to take advantage. First it was Cabrera who struck Neil Walker in the helmet with a throw to second base, allowing Ty Kelly to score. One batter later, Aviles booted a grounder to third base to draw the Mets within one run. But the rally stalled there when d'Arnaud hit into a double play and Kelly Johnson grounded out.
"Good comeback, we had some very, very good at-bats at the end of the game," Collins said. "Tough way to end it."
"When I got the ball, I kind of peeked up and I didn't think he was going to go. I kind of peeked in, I was like, 'Oh, he's going.' And then I just threw it. I threw the crap out of it." -- Martinez, on his throw home.
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Finishing 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, the Mets fell to .204 on the season in that category. In MLB's expansion era (since 1961), only the 1969 Padres posted a lower batting average with runners in scoring position (.201) over a full season.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After Jose Iglesias beat out an infield single to lead off the third inning, he attempted to steal second. Though umpires initially ruled him safe, they overturned the call following an 88-second replay review. That loomed large when Tyler Collins tripled with two outs, but the Tigers did not score.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: The Mets will turn to their most consistent starting pitcher for Sunday's 1:10 p.m. ET series finale in Jacob deGrom (7-5, 2.41 ERA). In six of his last seven starts, deGrom has allowed two or fewer runs, including four scoreless efforts within that stretch.
Tigers:Anibal Sanchez (6-11, 6.26 ERA) takes the mound for the Tigers at Comerica Park looking to build on his six innings of one-run ball in his last start against the White Sox. The former Marlin is 4-5 with a 4.45 ERA in 11 career starts against his old NL East rivals.