Tigers join forces to ace late-surging Royals

Tigers join forces to ace late-surging Royals

Tigers join forces to ace late-surging Royals
DETROIT -- For the Tigers, Saturday's win to get above .500 was a complete team effort.

Doug Fister wasn't especially great and Jose Valverde nearly surrendered a four-run ninth-inning lead, but eight runs provided from all spots in the lineup got it done, as the Tigers secured a series win with an 8-7 victory over the Royals at Comerica Park.

"That when you know you got a team. When everybody's contributing and everybody's helping win a game," said manager Jim Leyland, whose team moved above .500 for the first time since May 10.

Aside from Ryan Raburn, each Tigers hitter contributed with a base hit or an RBI. In fact, the only player besides Raburn not to tally a hit was All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera.

The day began with Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder. After Fister yielded two first-inning runs to put Detroit in an early hole, Jackson quickly extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games with a single and Fielder crushed a two-run shot -- his 14th blast -- to erase the deficit.

From there, it was the bottom half of the order that made the difference. Ramon Santiago and Gerald Laird sparked a three-run, second-inning rally with back-to-back doubles. Santiago also doubled in the fourth and came around to score both times. Laird finished 3-for-3 and his two-base knock off Bruce Chen ended a 15 at-bat hitless streak against left-handers.

"We've thought all along that we've got a good club, and now we're starting to get contributions from a lot of guys," Leyland said. "That's what it takes. You can't rely on the Prince's and Cabrera's every time. All these guys got to step up and get some big hits."

Chen was the fourth straight lefty the Tigers have faced. And by the end of the game, the veteran pitcher became the fourth straight lefty the Tigers have beaten. Entering Wednesday's game, Leyland called out his team for posting an 8-13 record against lefties. They're now 12-13 with a chance to break-even on Sunday against Royals southpaw Everett Teaford.

One player Leyland specifically noted was outfielder Delmon Young, who tallied 32 RBIs in 40 games after being traded to Detroit in August. Through 76 games this season hitting behind Cabrera and Fielder, Young had 34.

However, Young's one hit in Saturday's game proved to be the biggest -- a two-run homer in the seventh inning to increase the Tigers' lead to four. It was Young's third straight game with a homer, which is the longest streak of his career.

"Delmon's been a run producer and that's what we expect out of him," Leyland said. "He's not going to hit a home run everyday obviously, but he's an RBI guy and that's what we need with the two big guys. Pretty much guys have been getting on in front of him all year long, so if he does what he did today, that's huge for us."

It proved to be pivotal, because of Valverde's near collapse in the top of the ninth. The 34-year-old closer loaded the bases with none out and Billy Butler drove in two with a single. Mike Moustakas hit a sacrifice fly to make it a one-run game, before Valverde finally got out of it by striking out Jeff Francoeur to end the game.

"You like to see the crowd in it a little more, put a little more pressure on the other team instead of waiting until it's too late," said Fielder of the 39,392 fans in attendance who thought the game was in hand. "But fortunately, Valverde's tough. He's mentally strong and he got out of it."

Valverde's final strikeout pushed the Tigers to within four of the 2011 Yankees' American League record of 710 K's before the All-Star break.

However, the inning nearly erased another chance at a win for Fister, who entered the game with a 1-6 record despite five games allowing two runs or fewer. The right-hander also entered with a three-game losing streak and 10.05 ERA in his past three games. He was somewhere in between on Saturday.

"He left a couple pitches up and struggled with his command, but he settled down and made pitches and kept us in the lead," Laird said. "It obviously, wasn't his best outing, but it's one that he can build off of."

Fister yielded eight hits and four runs in six-plus innings. But the Tigers will need to see more of the pitcher who went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA down the stretch in 2011 to continue climbing in the standings.

"It's a step in the right direction," Fister said. "There's still things that we need to work on. Still things that we need to brush up on, but this is, again, a step in the right direction."

And so is a four-game winning streak.

Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.