Tigers go down swinging despite early deficit
Bullpen gives offense chance to rally after facing early six-run hole
ANAHEIM -- Alex Wilson felt a sense of urgency long before he took the mound for the Tigers in the second inning Saturday night with a six-run deficit and five Angels homers having already left the yard.
He felt it, he said, before they even took the field. It was a feeling in the clubhouse during the day as teammates filed in.
"We hadn't played well in the last couple days. Good teams want to respond," he said after an 8-6 loss at Angel Stadium. "No one likes to get beat. It was just one of those things where we were ready to go today. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't, but at least I feel we were mentally where we needed to be."
A 7-1, second-inning deficit, with an offense that hadn't scored seven runs in its previous five games combined, didn't throw them off. What should have been the low point of a frustrating West Coast trip could well have been a galvanizing point for them.
They were down six runs before recording their sixth out. They ended up bringing the potential tying run to the plate in the eighth. In between was stingy relief pitching and a piece-by-piece comeback at the plate from an offense that had been dormant all week.
They outhit the Angels for the game. They just lacked the big hit.
"We were just a home run away from being a one-run, two-run ballgame at different points," catcher James McCann said. "We never felt like we were out of it, despite the lopsided score early. Unfortunately, we just didn't have enough to get all the way back.
"If we want to take the positive out of it, we put up six runs. That's as many runs as we put up in the last five games."
As Wilson put it, "I think tonight we played with some urgency for the first time in a little while. I think it's going to be a good turning point."
The comeback began with stabilizing the pitching. Wilson has done that a handful of times over his first month as a Tiger, but never in circumstances like Saturday, with an Angels lineup looking aggressive and confident.The aggressiveness played into his hands, allowing him to cover 3 2/3 innings in just 40 pitches, 31 of them strikes.
Wilson retired all 11 batters he faced, the longest perfect outing from a Tigers reliever since Drew Smyly piggybacked the final four innings on April 5, 2013. Blaine Hardy retired his first four from there.
"I took the ball when it was my turn, tried to get some quick outs and let my offense work," Wilson said.
Miguel Cabrera got a run back in the third with a two-out RBI double. Nick Castellanos got another with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly. They missed a seventh-inning chance with two on and one out, but got it back with a two-run eighth.
Once McCann doubled in J.D. Martinez, Castellanos was the tying run in the box, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia had to turn to setup man Joe Smith and closer Huston Street to finish.
"I thought we were gonna make a run," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I mean, we did make a run, but I thought we were going to tie it up. I really did."
They came close, even after the Angels added a run in the ninth. Ian Kinsler's ninth-inning solo homer was his first long drive of the season.
"We turned a 7-1 game into a really good game," Wilson said, "so I think it's going to be a good building block for us."