"He threw me pitches that I wasn't looking for, so it worked out," Hicks said with a smile.
The Tigers have shown an uncanny ability to claw back late in games all season. As they celebrated a 9-8 win over the Indians on Tuesday night, it felt like that knack had been taken to another level. Facing a five-run deficit in the sixth inning with several regulars out of the lineup, against a team that had owned them for much of the past couple of years, the Tigers rallied again. They did it against a Tribe bullpen that had once been the bane of a mighty Detroit lineup.
The Tigers' fourth win in five games, and second in a row against Cleveland, whittled Detroit's deficit in the American League Central to one game behind the division-leading Tribe, who fell a game under .500. Detroit clinched its first series win over Cleveland since May 1-3 of last season.
While Nicholas Castellanos' fourth homer of the year chased starter Josh Tomlin, the bulk of the rally came off Miller, the All-Star reliever and former Tiger who retired only one of the six batters he faced.
"It was some kind of ballgame, all the way around," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Got behind, guys kept competing. We had a big inning against probably one of the pitchers that not too many people have had an inning against."
Miller entered an 8-6 game after McCann doubled home Hicks and Francisco Lindor's throw home in the dirt plated another run. Miller, Detroit's top pick in the 2006 Draft, hadn't allowed a Tigers run since joining the Indians' bullpen in 2016, compiling 13 1/3 scoreless innings on six hits with 20 strikeouts against his original club. He hadn't allowed a Tigers hit since May 3 of last year.
The makeshift top of the Tigers lineup corrected that quickly. JaCoby Jones and Pete Kozma hit consecutive pitches for RBI doubles, including Kozma's sixth RBI in five games played with the Tigers since his injury callup from Triple-A Toledo, to tie the game.
Miller got away with a fastball over the plate to Castellanos for a first-pitch flyout, then struggled to find the zone the rest of his outing.
Designated hitter Victor Martinez did not swing the bat in his five-pitch pass. Niko Goodrum, who homered three times over his previous two games, battled out of a 1-2 count, shrugging off back-to-back sliders out of the zone.
That brought up Hicks for a second time. Third-base coach Dave Clark told him to look for a good pitch to hit. He never got it.
"The first pitch was a heater away that wasn't close," Hicks recalled, "and then a slider close to me that was kind of an easy take, and then I got to 3-0 and I was taking the whole way."
The 3-0 fastball hit the middle of the zone, but the 3-1 heater was well inside, putting Detroit in front for the first time all evening.
"It was just nonstop," Gardenhire siad. "The guys just kept grinding away and got some big hits. Then it was hold on loosely."
Tigers lefty reliever Daniel Stumpf stranded the bases loaded in the eighth. Shane Greene, working for the fourth consecutive day, overcame his own two-out error for the save. Louis Coleman, who pitched the seventh in what looked like a mop-up situation, earned his first Major League win since July 31, 2016.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Stumpf strands bases loaded: Stumpf seemed headed for a similar fate as Miller, following a Jose Ramirez leadoff double in the eighth with back-to-back walks to load the bases with nobody out for lefty killer Brandon Guyer, who hit a first-inning grand slam off Francisco Liriano to put Cleveland in front to begin with. The Tigers had nobody warming in the bullpen, and Stumpf rewarded the trust by striking out Guyer on a check-swing before getting an inning-ending double play from Jason Kipnis.
"Well, he created the stinking mess. Get out of it," Gardenhire said. "We told him, 'You've got it.' He needed to pitch. He needed to get through an inning. He hadn't pitched in a while. He was a live arm. A lot of guys are beat up. Some people had to get some outs, and he was one of them."
SOUND SMART Kozma has driven in a run in each of his first five games as a Tiger, the longest streak by a player to begin his Tiger tenure since Dale Alexander drove in a run in each of his first seven games with Detroit in 1929, according to Baseball-Reference.com
HE SAID IT "We were trying to scare them. We just told him to stand up in the bullpen. I don't know if it worked or not, but that's what we were trying to do." -- Gardenhire, on why reliever Buck Farmer got up to warm in the seventh inning, then sat down while the Indians loaded the bases on Stumpf in the eighth
UP NEXT Ryan Carpenter (0-0, 7.36) will make his second start for the Tigers this season, called up from Triple-A Toledo for a spot assignment as the series wraps up with a 1:10 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. Trevor Bauer (2-3, 3.00) will make the start for the Indians.