By the time closer Jose Valverde had to enter to finish off Thursday's 10-6 win over the A's, the Tigers truly needed all that offense, having watched ex-teammate Brandon Inge turn a runaway into a slugfest with his second grand slam this week. Yet by that point, Oakland didn't have enough outs left to get its new RBI producer back around.
By the time the Tigers were done batting around in the third inning against A's starter Bartolo Colon and Jordan Norberto, they had put up as many runs in three innings as they did their previous three nights in Seattle. A few minutes later, Max Scherzer had sent down Oakland and sent his team back to the plate.
For the first time in weeks, despite the bullpen adventures, the Tigers had clutch hitting and starting pitching working in combination.
"Baseball's a funny game," Scherzer said. "I always believe in momentum. The more often you're able to keep your team in the dugout, keep them swinging the bats, they seem to get a rhythm at the plate. And when you're able to do go out there and do your job, have quick innings, get them back into the dugout, they seem to rally around that rhythm."
Whether it's enough to spark the Tigers on the winning streak they've been trying to build for the past few weeks will be seen this weekend. For now, it continued their stretch of alternating wins and losses to 12 games, but it was their most decisive win in that stretch.
Two days after Leyland said his team was chasing pitches outside the strike zone and not giving itself a chance, and one night after Leyland compared his team's offensive struggles to a broken record, the Tigers had four members of their starting lineup at the ballpark early for extra batting practice.
"We'll be fine," Leyland forecast before the game, "but we won't be fine just talking about it. We'll be fine by working at it, working at it and grinding it out, doing what we do. We will definitely come out of it."
Hours later, everybody got their swings in against Colon, who attacked the strike zone and paid for it with eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits over 2 1/3 innings. Nearly a third of Colon's 31 strikes thrown were struck for base hits.
"He throws a lot of strikes," Santiago said of Colon. "He's always 70 percent around the plate, so you have to be aggressive with a pitcher who throws a lot of strikes. We had a good game plan going into the game, and we executed it."
Andy Dirks homered to open the scoring and singled off Colon for his fifth consecutive multihit game. Miguel Cabrera, who came to town in an 0-for-14 slump, singled and doubled off Colon before adding two more singles against Oakland's bullpen for a season-high four hits. Alex Avila ended his 0-for-11 skid with a single and a two-run double off Colon (3-3), the latter being part of a third inning in which Detroit sent 13 batters to the plate, put 10 on base and scored eight.
"All the guys that came out today and hit extra, they did pretty well today," Leyland said. "Cabrera and Delmon [Young] looked OK. [Ryan] Raburn swung the bat pretty well, I thought. [Brennan] Boesch got a big hit. It paid some dividends, so it's nice to get some runs on the board."
Cabrera, in particular, looked different. By lowering his hands in his swing, he was supposedly quicker to the ball with his swing. Coincidence or not, three of his four hits went to the opposite field with authority. The other was a nice, easy ground ball through the middle.
Aside from a two-homer game, it was arguably the best he has looked this year. Still, he didn't want to call the results a massive change.
"I don't know, man. It's only one game," Cabrera said. "It's all about results. It doesn't matter [about the mechanics]. If you get a hit, you're good, you know?"
It was a welcome outburst for Scherzer, who had received just 14 runs of support over his previous five outings combined. He recovered from Kila Ka'aihue's second-inning two-run homer to retire nine of Oakland's next 11 batters. Those were the only runs Scherzer would allow, as he scattered five hits and notched nine strikeouts over 6 1/3 frames.
The fact that Leyland had to use every arm in the late-inning quartet of his bullpen was the downside, centered around Inge's grand slam off a Collin Balester fastball.
"We just didn't expand the zone enough on him," Leyland said. "We know he's got power. We've seen that first-hand, but we got a good win. We put some hits together, scored some runs. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come."