CLEVELAND -- Justin Wilson had no career saves of more than three outs. He hadn't even tried since May 16 against the Orioles, when Chris Davis spoiled it with a game-tying homer. Even in his setup days, four-plus outs aren't in his history.On Sunday, he did one better. His five-out
CLEVELAND -- Justin Wilson had no career saves of more than three outs. He hadn't even tried since May 16 against the Orioles, when Chris Davis spoiled it with a game-tying homer. Even in his setup days, four-plus outs aren't in his history.
On Sunday, he did one better. His five-out save not only helped the Tigers salvage a game against the Indians this weekend with a 5-3 win, it gained general manager Al Avila some leverage as he gauges potential interest ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The latter wasn't on Wilson's mind after 34 pitches Sunday night.
"We won. That's all that matters," Wilson said. "I don't care how long I'm out there. Just as long as we win the game."
If manager Brad Ausmus was ever going to stretch Wilson again, this was the situation. He hadn't pitched since Thursday and he was about to get four days off for the All-Star break. Bruce Rondon, who had been handling eighth-inning leads lately, threw 30 pitches Saturday. And with the Tigers trying to avoid another sweep in Cleveland, this was close to a must-win game.
Once Shane Greene entered to extinguish an Indians rally with two on and nobody out in the seventh, Wilson knew he needed to be ready.
"I figured if anyone else got up in the eighth, it was going to be me," he said.
Greene returned for the eighth after two strikeouts and a grounder in the seventh, but Wilson was warming up as the inning began. Essentially, Ausmus needed nine outs from two late-inning relievers, however they split them up.
"Clearly having the next four days off with the All-Star break played into it," Ausmus said.
Francisco Lindor flied out to deep left field against Greene, but Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion walked, putting the potential tying run on base.
Enter Wilson, and begin the challenge with All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez. But for Wilson, it wasn't about endurance or opponent as much as command.
"My fastball command wasn't very good," said Wilson, who sent catcher Alex Avila lunging for several pitches. "I actually felt great warming up, then I went out there and it wasn't coming out the same."
Wilson fell behind on fastballs before throwing three consecutive cutters, getting a groundout on the last. However, he walked Brandon Guyer, loading the bases and moving the potential tying run into scoring position for Tiger killer Carlos Santana.
Wilson put Santana in an 0-2 count with cutters, but again couldn't spot his fastball. He went back to the cutter for another grounder to the left side.
Wilson ended that threat, but it took 17 pitches and he still had three outs to go. The lefty had topped 27 pitches once all season. He said fatigue wasn't a factor. Still, with Wilson's fastball command spotty, Avila tweaked the game plan.
"We mixed in a few breaking balls," Avila said, noting the pitch Wilson dusted off this year. "We were definitely mixing in quite a few cutters between that eighth and ninth, and moving his fastball around a little bit, too."
Yan Gomes swung at the first pitch of the ninth and hit it high enough for first baseman Jose Cabrera to run down in foul territory in shallow right field. After Giovanny Urshela fouled off Wilson's fastball and cutter, they went to the curveball and got an out. They tried to end with the same combination after Bradley Zimmer fouled off a 2-2 fastball, but Zimmer lined the curve into right field for a two-out single.
Up came Lindor as the potential tying run. Out went the curveball. Wilson got ahead of him with cutters, then tried to get him to chase the high fastball. On a 1-2 count, he did, fouling Wilson's 34th pitch into Avila's mitt.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.