Tigers rediscover clutch gene at right moment

Tigers rediscover clutch gene at right moment

DETROIT -- The Tigers don't put too much emphasis on one game, let alone innings. It's a 162-game schedule, and at least publicly, they like to treat them relatively equally. And yet, as they wound down from two dramatic innings and a 4-3 win over the Red Sox Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park, they were in agreement:

"Oh, it was big, man," Miguel Cabrera said. "It was big."

The Tigers were six outs away from being held to one run or fewer in four consecutive games for the first time since 2005. They answered with a three-run eighth inning, capped by a go-ahead RBI from Andrew Romine without having to swing the bat.

"It was fun," manager Brad Ausmus said of the rally. "It hasn't been fun for the last three days."

The first seven innings looked like much of their previous series against the Royals -- well-pitched starts, one run of support, a struggle to follow up and an opposing rally. Matt Boyd tossed six innings of one-run ball, but so did Clay Buchholz, creating a sense of deja vu when Boston took a 3-1 lead in the eighth.

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn't want to throw Brad Ziegler against the top of the Tigers order, fearing they'd hit the low ball. Instead, Ian Kinsler improved to 6-for-10 off Junichi Tazawa with a single. Erick Aybar improved to 4-for-8 off Tazawa. And the dormant Detroit offense had a spark.

Up came Cabrera, on the verge of 1,000 RBIs but trying not to think about it.

"Last night, with the bases loaded, for some reason it got in my head," Cabrera said. "I hit a ground-ball double play. It was a good swing, but right at him. And I'm like, 'Don't think about that. When you think, it's not going to happen.'"

Cabrera's 1,000th RBI

Cabrera's line drive through the middle scored Kinsler for a 3-2 game and moved Aybar to third. Farrell went to Ziegler, who allowed a game-tying single to Victor Martinez.

After a J.D. Martinez walk, the Tigers had the bases loaded and nobody out. Those final 90 feet proved to be a saga.

Before the game, Ausmus said Tyler Collins -- hit on his right knee by a 99-mph fastball Wednesday night -- might be able to hit but not run. When he checked with Collins before first pitch, Collins said he might be able to pinch-run. With Cabrera in scoring position, Ausmus checked again.

"I went up to TC and said, 'Can you run?' And he was adamant that he could," Ausmus said. "And I said, 'Well, can you play left? Because you're going to have to play the outfield' And he says, 'Yes.' Just before he went up the stairs, I said, 'Are you good?' And he goes, 'Yeah, do you want me to run out there?'"

Casey McGehee's fielder's choice retired Collins at the plate. Ausmus had avoided pinch-running for Victor Martinez at second. With Martinez now the lead runner, Ausmus doubled down on his decision, sending out Justin Upton.

"We've got one out, sac fly, I need someone to score," Ausmus said.

Romine's bases-loaded walk

Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out on the low ball to take away the sacrifice fly opportunity. Up came Romine. With James McCann and Dixon Machado left on the bench, Ausmus stuck with him.

Romine was 0-for-4 with the bases loaded, but had more RBIs on non-hits (four) than on hits (two). With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, he didn't swing the bat. Ziegler hit the strike zone once in five pitches, allowing Upton to stroll home.

"Maybe his concentration goes up," Ausmus said of Romine's success. "I couldn't really give you a reason."

He'll take it. So did the crowd of 34,649, which roared as Romine took his base.

"It was perfect," Cabrera said. "I wish they could be like that the whole game, first inning to the ninth inning. It's fun. It gets you going. You want to go out there and do your best."

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