Santos saves Tigers after Miggy sets tone

Santos saves Tigers after Miggy sets tone

Santos saves Tigers after Miggy sets tone
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera hit somewhere around 900 feet worth of home runs to put the Tigers ahead.

The Yankees tied it in the ninth inning without a hit -- and without their hitting coach or their manager, for that matter, since both had been ejected.

The third and only available catcher on the roster drove in the winning run with nobody left on the Tigers' injury-depleted bench.

It was that kind of evening at Comerica Park.

"I don't think anybody can say, if they saw that game tonight, that everybody's not fighting their tails off -- because they are," manager Jim Leyland said after the Tigers' 4-3 walk-off win. "We may not be putting on the show they want us to put on, but we're not cheating them."

In Cabrera's case, they're not getting cheated at all. In the case of guys like Santos and Quintin Berry, they're getting surprised.

"Great team win," said Brennan Boesch, who came home on Santos' game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth. "Probably not the easiest one to watch for the skipper and everyone in the dugout and Tigers fans. It was an up-and-down kind of game, but it was a great win, and hopefully it can build some momentum for us."

In the mob scene that followed Santos off the field, Miguel Cabrera raced out of the dugout with two cups of Gatorade and poured them over Santos' head. The way Cabrera hit the ball all night, it probably should've been the other way around.

Cabrera's home runs counted for just two runs total, not nearly enough to win this game alone. Still, when people think about this game, they'll think about that.

Cabrera left quickly after the game ended to see his family, but his teammates spoke plenty for him.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Don Kelly, who provided his own highlight by taking away a Mark Teixeira home run with a catch over the left-field fence in the fourth inning. "I mean, really, you had to be here in the park to see what he did."

Cabrera's first home run traveled farther than the second, hitting the upper level of the center-field ivy off a fourth-inning slider from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda. The drive traveled an estimated 433 feet, according to the Tigers' distance chart, but 466 feet according to ESPN's Hit Tracker Online.

Berry's RBI single an inning later padded the lead for starter Rick Porcello, whose six innings of one-run ball included runners stranded in scoring position in four innings. Joaquin Benoit stranded two Yankees by retiring Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez in the seventh, but when Rodriguez called a late timeout as Benoit had started his delivery, he tweaked something in his right forearm and sailed a ball to the backstop.

With Benoit out, Nick Swisher's two-out RBI single off Octavio Dotel in the top of the eighth tied it. Cabrera's second home run, this one with two outs off Cory Wade, untied it.

The ball landed in the center-field porch where the television cameras are stationed, where Eric Munson hit an estimated 457-foot drive in 2004.

"It's a 2-1 changeup down; it wasn't a bad pitch at all," Yankees catcher Russell Martin said. "That's impressive. Right there, you really can't do anything except tip your hat to that guy."

Or, as Boesch put it, "That's greatness in his prime, right there."

In the early years of Comerica Park, the Tigers kept a list of how many players had homered into the center-field shrubs. Just a few had done it more than once in their careers. Cabrera was the first to do it twice in a game.

The second one nearly stood up as the difference. Though closer Jose Valverde hit two batters and walked another to load the bases with one out, he nearly escaped. Robinson Cano popped out to short for the second out, and Teixeira had taken one strike and fouled off another to run the count full.

Valverde's payoff pitch in the dirt was anticlimactic, a fourth ball to bring in Dewayne Wise to tie the game. With the bottom half of the order due up, the Tigers seemed ticketed for extra innings.

Boesch was mired in an 0-for-13 slump when his ground ball through the right side started the rally in the bottom of the ninth off losing pitcher David Phelps (1-2). Jhonny Peralta was 0-for-11 before he lined a single into right field, moving Boesch to third.

Even so, the Tigers had their eighth and ninth hitters due up and Ramon Santiago as the lone position player on the bench. Once the Yankees turned to lefty Boone Logan to face Kelly, Leyland played his bench option and hit Santiago.

That ensured Santos would have to hit if his spot came up. The Tigers were not only out of healthy players, they were out of healthy catchers.

That's what Santos wanted.

"When they got Santi 2-0 and I saw [them decide to] walk him, I said, 'OK; I'm going to get it done,'" Santos said. "I mean, I was praying I'd get to the plate. I want that at-bat."

All Santos wanted, he said, was a pitch to get in the air. He passed on Logan's first-pitch slider for strike 1. He went at the 0-1 fastball and got it in the air, forcing Swisher to backpedal in right field as he caught it.

It didn't have Cabrera distance. It had enough.

"It was perfect," Boesch said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.