DETROIT -- On the night the Tigers saluted Victor Martinez for his 16-year career, they also broke their hex against Royals starter Jakob Junis. Michael Mahtook's two-run eighth-inning homer off Jason Hammel put the Tigers up for good, sending Detroit to a 5-4 win Saturday night at Comerica Park.They didn't
DETROIT -- On the night the Tigers saluted Victor Martinez for his 16-year career, they also broke their hex against Royals starter Jakob Junis. Michael Mahtook's two-run eighth-inning homer off Jason Hammel put the Tigers up for good, sending Detroit to a 5-4 win Saturday night at Comerica Park.
They didn't hand a loss to Junis, who had won his last six appearances against Detroit since last summer. But they didn't let him walk away with a win, either. They let Martinez walk away with one more hit.
"Fun day, really fun day," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And to win the ballgame at the end was really cool."
Martinez's 1,973rd and final Major League game lasted one inning for him, enough for an infield single -- his 2,153rd career hit -- to help fuel an opening tally off Junis. Niko Goodrum, back after missing a week with a right quad contusion, singled home Nicholas Castellanos in the first and doubled in Christin Stewart in the third before a pair of wild pitches brought JaCoby Jones around to score a go-ahead run in the fifth.
Junis, who had given up six runs over 31 innings in his previous four meetings with the Tigers this season, yielded three runs on eight hits over six innings Saturday. His six wins against Detroit since the start of last season tie him with Cleveland's Corey Kluber for most in that stretch, but he settled for a no-decision. He was on the hook for a loss as Jordan Zimmermann churned through seven innings of two-run ball, until Whit Merrifield tied the game with a two-out RBI double in the eighth off a 3-0 pitch from Joe Jimenez, ending his streak of six perfect innings with 11 strikeouts in September.
"The starting pitcher always gives you a chance, and [Zimmermann] pitched really, really well," Gardenhire said. "Jimenez has been really good, just got one up."
Goodrum's third hit of the night, deflected up the middle by Hammel and shortstop Raul Mondesi, earned the Tigers a leadoff runner in the eighth. Mahtook turned on a hanging slider from Hammel (3-14) for his ninth homer of the year.
Salvador Perez brought the Royals back within a run with a ninth-inning solo homer off Shane Greene, but the Tigers closer held on for his 31st save.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Martinez's infield single didn't decide the game, but it ended a 16-year career for Martinez, who announced earlier in the week that he wanted his final game to be Saturday in front of the home fans. His ground ball went into the typical infield shift he sees against right-handed pitchers, but he picked up speed as he saw Merrifield struggling to charge it and Mondesi scrambling over to retrieve it. Martinez beat the play as the crowd roared, then received a standing ovation as Ronny Rodriguez pinch-ran for him.
"I think that at-bat was the perfect at-bat to describe my career," Martinez said. "I had to sweat it out. I had to grind it out. And that was my whole career, grinding."
Martinez ends his career 15th all-time among Major League switch-hitters in RBIs (1,178), 16th in home runs (246), 18th in doubles (423) and 23rd in hits (2,153).
HE SAID IT
"I felt like I drove three hours to the field today. I didn't want to get to the field. And I knew this day was coming, but man, I didn't want to get to the field. I think that was the hardest part." -- Martinez, on the hardest part of his final game
The Tigers wrap up their home schedule Sunday with the series finale against the Royals at 1:10 p.m. ET at Comerica Park. Daniel Norris (0-5, 5.71 ERA), who tossed 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Royals in a spot start in April, will try to top that as he vies for his first win since beating the Royals last Sept. 28. Brad Keller (8-6, 3.17) will start for Kansas City.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.