Patience pays off for Tigers in crazy eighth

Patience pays off for Tigers in crazy eighth

DETROIT -- The spirits of the sellout crowd at Comerica Park were sunk midway through the eighth inning, Pablo Sandoval's home run having pulled the Red Sox ahead. The Tigers received a smattering of boos on their way into the dugout, but had other emotions when they made it in.

"It's funny. In the dugout, the energy was still good when we came up in the bottom of the eighth," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Guys were rooting for each other, pulling for each other, and they got it done."

There was a reason for that, said outfielder Mikie Mahtook, whose RBI double spearheaded the go-ahead rally that sent Detroit back on top for a 6-5 win.

Mahtook's game-tying RBI double

"You don't want to have that pressure in the bottom of the eighth," Mahtook acknowledged, "but I think we never lost focus of what we were trying to do. This is a very veteran team. This is a very talented team. And one run, in the grand scheme of things, with the guys we have in our lineup, is not that much. I think everybody in the dugout had the same mindset: 'OK, let's get this back.'"

Just as important, they never lost focus of the strike zone, not even the youngsters.

Seven Tigers stepped to the plate before they took the lead back. Mahtook was the only one to put the ball in play. Detroit nullified Boston's five-run eighth with an RBI double and four walks, all with two outs.

Heath Hembree fanned Nicholas Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera to begin the inning, and nearly did the same with Victor Martinez, who fouled off three consecutive full-count sliders -- one at his knees -- before shrugging off a fastball inside for a walk.

Justin Upton, too, saw three consecutive sliders after a 1-2 count. None came close to the strike zone, and Upton took his base. That brought lefty Robby Scott out of the bullpen, and Mahtook off the bench to hit for Tyler Collins.

Mahtook was 0-for-8 for his Major League career as a pinch-hitter, but his job is to hit lefties. After he fell into an 0-2 hole, he reached for a breaking ball down and in and pulled it into the left-field corner.

Mahtook on game-tying hit

"Obviously the crowd is behind you," Mahtook said. "To come through, it's a fun thing."

Like Ausmus, Red Sox manager John Farrell faced a decision with closer Craig Kimbrel and a four-out save chance. He went with setup man Joe Kelly instead. With first base open, Kelly walked James McCann on five pitches and took his chances with rookie JaCoby Jones.

Jones was supposed to begin the season at Triple-A Toledo to cut down on his strikeouts, but his Spring Training work showed progress, as did his Opening Day play against the White Sox. But nothing prepares for a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and the game tied.

Jones on playing at home

"I wasn't trying to hit a grand slam or anything," Jones said. "I was just trying to see the ball and hit it; take what he gives me. He threw a slider up."

Kelly actually threw two. The first was in the strike zone, and Jones fouled it off. The second was higher, and Jones laid off.

"He was able to control the emotions and slow the game down, and that's what you worry about with young guys," Ausmus said.

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.