Walk-off hit caps gritty comeback win

May 16th, 2021

Some wins are about finesse, clutch hits and standout performances. And then there are the “grit” wins -- ones that taste extra sweet looking back after a hard fight.

provided the knockout punch with a single to left field that sent careening around the bases and into a headfirst slide into home during the Tigers’ 9-8, 10-inning walk-off win over the Cubs on Saturday at Comerica Park. But a handful of jabs along the way put Chicago on the ropes and had everything to do with the final result.

• Box score

“The first at-bats were a little tough, but I had to be prepared for any situation in the game,” Castro said. “I knew something good was going to come to me.”

Along the way, the Tigers got grit from the starting pitcher, who was struck hard by a comebacker. They got grit from the bullpen, pressed into service after just 2 2/3 innings. And they got grit from the offense, which rallied from three deficits before Castro’s defining blow.

“In situations like that, I’m always reminded by some old coaches that used to say, ‘Beat him with a single,’” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “And that’s what we kept saying in the dugout. Nobody better out there when you need a single than Harold.”

was still feeling for his rhythm when Jason Heyward led off the second with a 109-mph liner that Ureña took off his right foot.

The ball deflected nearly perfectly to , who stepped on the base for the out, but Ureña was clearly hurting. He went down on the field for a moment, had a quick chat with trainers then bounced back to sit down Eric Sogard and Tony Wolters to complete the 1-2-3 inning.

Ureña is listed as day to day.

But the lasting effect of Heyward's knock was evident soon enough. Ureña had his sore foot tested right away in the third, when Joc Pederson’s hit pulled Cabrera off first base, leaving Ureña to sprint to cover the bag for the out. The next hit was a Kris Bryant comebacker that Ureña nearly fielded cleanly before it caromed off his glove for a base hit.

Ureña limped around the mound afterward as his leg continued to stiffen up, but he continued to battle. A pair of doubles around a groundout gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead, though, and that ended Ureña's day.

Holding the fort
Ureña’s exit meant action for the bullpen much earlier than Detroit would have liked, especially after he threw seven innings for four consecutive starts from April 16-May 2.

was first up and held strong, permitting just one hit across his 1 1/3 innings. The most important shutdown came immediately after Urena's departure, when Norris fanned Ian Happ swinging on four pitches to escape the inning.

“We asked a lot out of our pitching today,” Hinch said. “Yes, we gave up a few runs in the middle of the game, but as the game got closer and our offense kept fighting back, our pitching really responded.

“Very impressed and happy for our ’pen.”

Chicago then entered the sixth with momentum on its side after a three-run fifth, but cooled the bats immediately, needing just 12 pitches to complete a flawless frame and sit the Cubs down in order for just the second time on the afternoon.

Alexander allowed just one baserunner, on a walk, in his two innings. (eighth) and (ninth and 10th) followed up and allowed no earned runs.

The bullpen’s ability to prevent the game from getting away set the stage for ...

Batter up!
Undaunted by a two-run deficit before they even got to bat, the Tigers charged back with a three-run bottom of the first to retake the lead thanks to a double from , a single from and an RBI fielder’s choice from Castro.

Detroit showed mettle again with another three-run frame in the fourth. The Tigers plated a trio of runs on a wild pitch, a groundout from Cabrera and a double from Schoop to retake a 6-4 lead.

Down 7-6 in the seventh, the Tigers rallied again to tie the game on Cabrera’s single, which eventually sent the game to extras.

And then, the reward for a fight well fought: A Cabrera flyout and a single from Mazara pushed -- who started the 10th on second base -- home with the tying run. Jones took over for Mazara as a pinch-runner, stole second and left on a mad dash for home as soon as Castro connected.

“I think it’s the mindset that we have in the clubhouse,” Castro said. “We know in baseball, we’re going to have tough moments, but that [will] pass. We have to keep just playing hard like we did, and we know the results are going to be there.”