DETROIT -- This is the type of impact JaCoby Jones can make in a game. His walk-off homer in the 10th inning of Friday's 3-2 Tigers win over the Royals in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Comerica Park was just the capper.Jones' ultimate difference came with the bat. But
DETROIT -- This is the type of impact JaCoby Jones can make in a game. His walk-off homer in the 10th inning of Friday's 3-2 Tigers win over the Royals in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Comerica Park was just the capper.
Jones' ultimate difference came with the bat. But his legs and his glove put the Tigers in position for their second walk-off win in three days, as well as their fourth consecutive victory.
"He's just an outstanding player. He's an athlete," teammate Michael Fulmer said.
Jones is also looking like the Tigers' left fielder now.
As tough as it was for Jones to watch his friend Michael Mahtook get sent down to Triple-A Toledo a week ago, it created an opportunity for Jones in left, a chance that wasn't going to come in center anytime soon with the way Leonys Martin has wrested an everyday role.
Until that move, the Tigers were challenged to find Jones at-bats on a roster with five outfielders. With three consecutive two-hit games, Jones is making it difficult for manager Ron Gardenhire to take him out.
"He's aggressive," Gardenhire said. "If you give him an inch, he's going to take a mile. And I like that."
When Jones rounded first base at top speed on his fifth-inning gapper to left-center, he looked like he might be trying to force a rundown to ensure James McCann, who had initially retreated to second base on the ball, could score.
"I was just going to second," Jones said. "He turned around and didn't go on the ball, so I didn't know if [third-base coach Dave Clark] was going to send him or not. I was just going to second to get the double.
"I didn't know Mac was going. I thought there were going to be runners at second and third."
McCann scored as Jones raced into second. He was there for mere moments before taking off on Royals starter Jason Hammel's next pitch to Jose Iglesias, stealing third with nobody out. With three stolen bases in 13 games this season, he's halfway to his total in 56 games last year.
"I like the way he plays," Gardenhire said. "If he was out, I'll yell at him."
The steal set up Dixon Machado's sacrifice fly three pitches later. The 2-0 lead gave Fulmer the leverage in a pitching duel before Mike Moustakas' sixth-inning solo homer and Jonathan Jay's seventh-inning single brought the Royals back.
Hammel carried the deadlock into extra innings with nine innings of five-hit ball. The Tigers' bullpen matched zeroes with him with help from Jones, whose dash back to the left-field fence denied Alcides Escobar a leadoff double in the ninth with a leaping grab.
"As I was running back to the fence, I took two steps on the warning track, so I knew the wall was getting close," Jones said. "So I was like, 'I'm just going to jump and catch it.' I don't really know if it was going to go out or not. Probably not, but I made the catch."
Joe Jimenez stranded two runners in scoring position in the 10th. Jones stepped to the plate in the bottom half and made sure that was enough. His fourth Major League home run was his first walk-off hit, two days after Machado's first.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play, get on base," Jones said. "Luckily I put a good swing on it, a line drive that went out."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Fourth time thru for Fulmer: Gardenhire made it clear before the game that he was hoping to get a deep outing from Fulmer to leave his bullpen fresh for Daniel Norris' start in Game 2. Thus, Fulmer earned a chance to face Jay a fourth time after singles from Ryan Goins and Cam Gallagher put runners at the corners with one out in the seventh.
Fulmer put Jay in an 0-2 count, but he couldn't get him to chase a slider in the dirt. Fulmer's ensuing fastball was below the knees, but it had enough of the plate for Jay to propel on the ground through the right side to tie the game as Daniel Stumpf warmed in the bullpen.
"I think I was breathing out of the wrong eyelid the last two innings I threw," Fulmer joked. "But that's baseball. They did a good job of hitting mistakes I threw, stringing some hits together."
Fulmer induced nine swinging strikes from Royals hitters in 96 pitches over seven innings, seven more swing-and-misses than Fulmer recorded in his previous start last Wednesday at Cleveland.
"I still don't think that I had my best stuff today, especially for all seven innings," Fulmer said. "I felt the best I have in a while, but I think if I get two or three balls down in the zone, I think everything will start clicking again."
HE SAID IT
"I'm kind of hungry, so I wanted to end it." -- Jones, to Fox Sports Detroit, on his walk-off homer
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Jeimer Candelario did not dive back into first base on Hammel's pickoff attempt after his leadoff single in the sixth, seemingly within a safe distance to the bag. First-base umpire Roberto Ortiz called him safe, but the Royals challenged, arguing first baseman Lucas Duda tagged Candelario's leg before he got back.
A one-minute, five-second review overturned the call and sent Candelario back to the dugout with the first out of the inning, which loomed large after Nicholas Castellanos' two-out double two batters later.
Norris makes his first start of the season as the Tigers and Royals finish their doubleheader with a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt at Comerica Park. Norris began 2018 in Detroit's rotation, but he moved to the bullpen after rainouts scrubbed his previous scheduled start.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.