ARLINGTON -- Nomar Mazara's 10th-inning walk-off home run Wednesday left his bat at 117.1 mph, the fifth-highest exit velocity for any homer in the Majors this season. The Tigers' plane that followed their 5-4 loss at Globe Life Park couldn't get them back to Detroit fast enough for their liking.Detroit
ARLINGTON -- Nomar Mazara's 10th-inning walk-off home run Wednesday left his bat at 117.1 mph, the fifth-highest exit velocity for any homer in the Majors this season. The Tigers' plane that followed their 5-4 loss at Globe Life Park couldn't get them back to Detroit fast enough for their liking.
Detroit lost five of seven games on this weeklong trip to Kansas City and Texas, and lost four players to the disabled list. A fifth player, Nicholas Castellanos, is in injury limbo after his left knee swelled up Thursday morning, leaving him unable to swing a bat, and a flu bug that has run through the clubhouse hit starter Francisco Liriano harder than the Rangers did Thursday.
"We're a little beat up, that's for sure," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
And yet, they held leads in all three games at Texas. They lost two of them. What they haven't lost is their willingness to compete.
Last season, the Tigers' frustrations boiled over with Ian Kinsler's tirade against umpire Angel Hernandez, starting an ugly stretch of 40 losses in their final 53 games. That frustration isn't showing yet, on the field or in the clubhouse.
"It's not like we're getting boat-raced every game," said catcher James McCann, who served as Wednesday's DH with Victor Martinez off. "You look at what we've done with a depleted lineup. We've had guys out with illness. We've had guys out with injury. Now we have [Leonys Martin] out on the DL, we've got Miggy on the DL, you have Castellanos banged up. So the fact that we're playing … you look at our losses and you could easily flip-flop our wins and losses based on games that we've been in.
"That's a testament to the fight in this clubhouse, the will and the desire to never give up."
With a makeshift batting order that featured JaCoby Jones leading off, John Hicks at cleanup, McCann at DH, Grayson Greiner catching, Niko Goodrum in right field and Pete Kozma at second, the Tigers put up enough offense off Bartolo Colon and the Rangers' bullpen to take a lead into the late innings. At the same time, they missed chances to add on, leaving 10 runners on base.
Kozma, starting at second base with Dixon Machado off, hit a solo homer in his first at-bat as a Tiger and scored another run on a Michael Mahtook sacrifice fly. Goodrum, starting in place of Castellanos, doubled and scored to move the Tigers in front in the sixth before Mazara's first home run of the day extended Daniel Stumpf's recent struggles against lefties.
Joe Jimenez bounced back from a rough eighth inning Tuesday by striking out the side in order in the eighth before Warwick Saupold stranded the potential winning run on third base in the ninth, helped by rookie catcher Greiner's block of a breaking ball in the dirt. But after the Tigers couldn't drive in Goodrum following his leadoff double in the top of the 10th, Mazara jumped Saupold's 1-0 pitch in the bottom half for a line-drive homer just inside the right-field foul pole.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Greiner blocks pitch in dirt: Greiner, called up last weekend when Cabrera went on the DL, is one of the tallest catchers in Major League history at 6-foot-6, giving him a challenge of covering distance on pitches in the dirt. But when Saupold spiked a 1-2 curveball with the winning run on third, Greiner kept it in front of him, using his body to stop it while giving Ronald Guzman no chance to break from third. The play impressed the veteran McCann.
"You can block 50 balls in innings one through eight," McCann said, "And if you miss that one, which one are they going to remember? It's a different mentality. You have to slow the game down."
Kozma's homer was the fifth of his Major League career. His last big-league home run came against the Tigers, for the Rangers, at Comerica Park last May 21.
HE SAID IT
"I might not be doing a whole lot of running, so that cart might get used after all." -- Alex Wilson, currently on the 10-day DL with a ruptured plantar fascia in his left foot, on the possibility he could be the first player to use the bullpen cart the Tigers introduced this season at Comerica Park
The Tigers are off Thursday before returning to Comerica Park to start a six-game homestand Friday with a 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Mariners. Matthew Boyd (1-3, 3.00) starts for Detroit opposite Marco Gonzales (3-2, 5.19) in a rematch of two lefties who faced each other in college at Oregon State and Gonzaga.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.