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Mahtook's heroics lift Tigers past Padres

Special to MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- Sunday's game was tied when Tigers manager Brad Ausmus peeked down his bench in the ninth inning. With two runners in scoring position and Padres closer Brandon Maurer pitching, Ausmus nearly tapped Mikie Mahtook on the shoulder.

"We actually had some discussions about pinch-hitting for him,'' Ausmus said.

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SAN DIEGO -- Sunday's game was tied when Tigers manager Brad Ausmus peeked down his bench in the ninth inning. With two runners in scoring position and Padres closer Brandon Maurer pitching, Ausmus nearly tapped Mikie Mahtook on the shoulder.

"We actually had some discussions about pinch-hitting for him,'' Ausmus said.

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Instead, Mahtook stroked a full-count fastball to right field to lead the Tigers over the Padres, 7-5. The hit snapped the Tigers' season-high, eight-game losing streak and made for a happier flight home after a dreadful 1-7 West Coast road trip.

"Any time you have a losing streak like that, it's nice to get that win and get the monkey off your back," Mahtook said. "Everybody in this clubhouse and everybody in the dugout, no matter the score and no matter the situation, everybody has been positive. We always expected that we were going to come through."

Mahtook's hit allowed the Tigers to exhale. To a player, they discounted theories about them pressing as the losses mounted. But doubt can still creep in, no matter how steadfast the team was that things would flip in a positive direction. They proved it by overcoming deficits of 3-0 and 5-3.

Video: DET@SD: Mahtook lines an RBI triple to right-center

"It's a credit and testament to the guys in this clubhouse," Mahtook said. "I think going forward, it's a win that's going to mean a lot."

Mahtook was in a lineup that Ausmus joked he pulled from a hat. It had Miguel Cabrera hitting No. 2 for the first time this season and was loaded with right-handed hitters to offset Padres starting southpaw Clayton Richard.

But Ausmus went against the grain later in the game. Despite Maurer's power right arm, he stayed with the right-handed Mahtook.

"He had been swinging the bat pretty well and righties seem to have a little more luck against Mauer at times,'' Ausmus said. "So we just kind of stuck with him and he did a nice job of taking the fastball the other way.''

Maurer's offering hit 99 mph before it was redirected by Mahtook.

"I was just trying not to come out of my shoes," Mahtook said. "He threw me a fastball away and I was able to shoot it through the hole. When the guy throws like that, you don't want to over swing. You have to pick and choose your moments, and my moment was the 3-0 pitch.

"He came back with a change-up, and that allowed me to dial it down a little bit, and get my foot down and get the barrel to it. I was able to shoot it through, and we scored two."

The Tigers, nine games under .500, still have some work to do. But they'll move forward with a win, thanks to Mahtook's clutch hit.

"We dug a hole on this road trip and we need to dig ourselves out of it,'' Ausmus said. "It's one step; we've got some ground to catch up.''

Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com based in San Diego. He covered the Tigers on Sunday.

Detroit Tigers, Mikie Mahtook