Berry's spark, Boesch's blast propel Tigers

Berry's spark, Boesch's blast propel Tigers

Berry's spark, Boesch's blast propel Tigers
DETROIT -- This is the kind of comeback victory the Tigers were expected to get this year. As a result of Monday's 8-6 win over the Angels, the Tigers are finally where they expected to be, in line for a postseason spot.

It's not the spot they want, but the way they're going, they could have a shot at that this weekend.

"Everybody's rolling right now. It's contagious," said Quintin Berry, the man at the forefront of the roll. "We're playing great baseball."

The Tigers' eighth win in nine games pushed them four games over .500 (47-43) for the first time since they were 10-6 on April 22. Thanks to a White Sox loss at Boston, Detroit moved within 2 1/2 games of the American League Central lead.

Once the Twins finished off a 19-7 win over the Orioles, Detroit passed up Baltimore for the newly created second AL Wild Card spot. If the season ended today, they'd be visiting the Angels for one game to advance to the Division Series.

They'd be heading in with momentum. Having Berry as the catalyst for it wasn't in the game plan, but they're going to run with him.

"He's a different dimension for those guys," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who knows something about the pressure fast players can put on a team.

The Tigers, on the other hand, haven't had much of that during Jim Leyland's tenure as manager. He's taking advantage of it now. He wasn't happy about the jumps Berry got on his two stolen bases that set up the tying run ahead of Brennan Boesch's go-ahead homer, but he'll take the results.

"He's been absolutely fantastic for us," Leyland said. "He's done a terrific job, there's no question about it. That gives us another way to score some runs sometimes. But the thing that I'm impressed with is that he's knocked in some big runs. He's had good at-bats and knocked in some big runs."

That's what he dreamed of doing during seven years in the Minor Leagues.

"That's all I wanted to do is be able to help a team win," he said. "I'm just happy for that."

He did all of that on Monday by taking advantage of what the Angels were giving him.

When Ervin Santana had seemingly settled in after a four-run fifth inning and a 5-2 lead, Berry noticed third baseman Maicer Izturis playing him in the middle of the infield dirt with two outs and nobody on.

"I haven't seen that pretty much all year," Berry said. "That's the first time I've seen anybody play me back like that. I definitely wasn't going to let that go by."

Berry dropped a bunt on the first pitch he saw, extending the inning for a Miguel Cabrera walk and back-to-back RBI singles from Prince Fielder and Delmon Young to pull the Tigers within a run.

Izturis was playing much closer when Berry came back up in the seventh. Instead, he laced a line-drive single off Hisanori Takahashi. That brought veteran LaTroy Hawkins into the game, and put Berry in motion.

"I saw [Howard] Kendrick and I knew the pitcher had a real slow leg kick, so I knew I could steal it from a dead standstill," Berry said. "With his leg kick and Kendrick backing off, I thought I had a good chance to get it."

It was the steal of third after a Cabrera groundout and intentional walk to Fielder that was really close.

"Usually when you've got Miggy or Prince up, you let them swing," Berry said, "but I thought it was a good opportunity for Delmon. I thought it was a good opportunity to get to third, get a sac fly."

Replays showed Izturis had the ball in time to make a tag. Berry got his hand in just ahead of it.

"I knew I was in there, but it was close," Berry said. "Sometimes when you make it close like that you never know what the human eye's going to see."

Said Leyland: "Not that he wasn't safe, but with a jump like that, he could've been thrown out easily."

Young rewarded him with a fly ball to deep center field, scoring Berry easily and bringing up Boesch with a man on for the potential go-ahead run.

Boesch's ninth home run of the year continued the makings of a second straight summer tear. He has gone 13-for-30 with two homers and nine RBIs over an eight-game hitting streak.

"You just keep battling every day. Baseball's that way," Boesch said. "You just get another opportunity the next day to contribute. If you don't contribute the day before, you come back the next day. ... That's how I try to go about my business. Hopefully I contribute to wins, and today was one of those times."

After Mark Trumbo's fourth home run in five games whittled the lead to 8-7 in the eighth, Berry struck again with a ground ball through the middle, scoring Austin Jackson. With that, Berry had his second three-hit game in three days, and his seventh in 46 games this year.

Berry's hardest-hit ball all night was snagged on a leaping catch from Torii Hunter in right field, which started a double play. He joked after that he wanted to keep it on the ground.

"He's obviously been a spark -- and he's hitting in a great spot," Scioscia said. "You're hitting in front of Cabrera and Fielder, that's not too bad a spot. ... He's a spark for them, he gives them a dimension of speed with he and Jackson at the top of the lineup, and they're using it. They used it tonight."

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.