DETROIT - It had the makings of a poker game from the start. A lot of gambling was going on as Detroit and Texas opened a three-game series at Comerica Park last night - a meeting of two teams with records well under .500 and a collective 20 games out of first place a month into the season.
They were both willing to take some risks in an effort to put some life in their attack, but the Tigers played the trump card with two out in the bottom of the ninth as they pulled out a 5-4 win.
“We've been struggling a bit, and we took some chances tonight - some chances that eventually paid off,” Detroit starting pitcher Chris Holt said. “I've been on some teams where you start winning some games in the late innings and it builds confidence. That can come out of a game like this.”
The Tigers had three runners cut down stealing, while Texas had two wiped out that way. Detroit manager Phil Garner used six pitchers and 19 players total in the marathon that went over 31/2 hours.
“It looked like we weren't going to push anything across, but we got a couple of late hits and forced some things to happen,” Garner said. “We took advantage of some opportunities and came away with a pretty good win, no doubt.”
Detroit trailed 4-3 when Jose Macias led off the bottom of the ninth with a line-drive base hit up the middle, but he never slowed down coming around first and went flying into second head-first, beating Gabe Kapler's throw.
“I think that play showed a lot,” Garner said. “Those kinds of things kind of inspire us.”
Bobby Higginson followed with a walk, and after Dean Palmer fanned, Robert Fick slapped a single to right, scoring Macias and tying the game 4-4. Deivi Cruz flied out to deep center, moving Higginson to third, then Juan Encarnacion chopped a two-strike pitch off the infield grass that Texas third baseman Ken Caminiti charged and misplayed as Higginson raced home with the winning run.
“That was a great hustle play by Macias to get us going, then we kept battling to win it,” Higginson said. “We've been scoring runs with two outs, getting hits with two strikes, and tonight we kept doing those things until the last pitch. We kind of forced the issue out there.”
Caminiti had given the Rangers a 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the top of the second, but Detroit took a 2-1 lead with two outs in the third when Higginson singled, Palmer laced a liner to left that Rusty Greer misplayed for his major league-leading fifth error, scoring Higginson, and then Fick singled to right to score Palmer.
Texas tied it 2-2 in the fourth when Kapler ripped a two-out single to right-center and Frank Catalanotto, like Kapler - a former Tiger - sent a ball to the gap in left-center for a double, scoring Kapler.
Holt walked two batters and hit a third in the fifth to load the bases with two down, then gave up a single to Andres Galarraga that scored Mirabelli and Randy Velarde for a 4-2 Texas lead. The Tigers made it 4-3 in the sixth when Cruz doubled to the gap in left-center, Texas starter Rick Helling walked both Damion Easley and Tony Clark, then Mike Venafro came on in relief and walked Roger Cedeno on four pitches, bringing in Cruz.
“I consider it a positive thing on our side when we work the count and make things happen,” Garner said. “Although the last play of the game was a makeable play, I wouldn't say they threw a lot of opportunities at us.”
ANOTHER PARTIAL SELLOUT: Texas brought Alex Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in the game, to Comerica Park for the first time this season last night, but the presence of Rodriguez failed to attract a rush of fans at the ball park. The Tigers, who never drew fewer than 20,000 fans for any of their home dates last season, have had fewer than 20,000 on hand for their last 10 home games. Last night's crowd was announced as 21,662, but that reflects the number of tickets sold, not bodies in seats.
PERISHO ON DL: The Tigers placed left-handed pitcher Matt Perisho on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with a strained left shoulder. Perisho, who said on Sunday that his shoulder was “70 percent better,” had a 10.56 ERA in four winless starts replacing the injured Brian Moehler in the rotation. Perisho was replaced on the Detroit roster by lefty Matt Miller, called up from the Mud Hens. Miller has an ERA of 1.23 in 11 relief appearances for Toledo.