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McCann completes Tigers' comeback in 9th

Catcher's double caps 3-run rally against Royals' bullpen
MLB.com @beckjason

KANSAS CITY -- What began as a potential trade showcase for Tigers starter Francisco Liriano ended up as one for closer Shane Greene and his first save since June 16. But in between the pitching bookends of the Tigers' latest comeback win, a 5-4 victory over the Royals on Monday night, their catcher put in the toughest work of the night.

James McCann can bask in his go-ahead double in the ninth inning. But as he maneuvered from the training room to his locker after Detroit's third win in its last 11 games, he wore the bruises of a night in the dirt around home plate.

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KANSAS CITY -- What began as a potential trade showcase for Tigers starter Francisco Liriano ended up as one for closer Shane Greene and his first save since June 16. But in between the pitching bookends of the Tigers' latest comeback win, a 5-4 victory over the Royals on Monday night, their catcher put in the toughest work of the night.

James McCann can bask in his go-ahead double in the ninth inning. But as he maneuvered from the training room to his locker after Detroit's third win in its last 11 games, he wore the bruises of a night in the dirt around home plate.

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"Our catcher took a beating," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Mac got the living fire beat out of him behind the plate."

Said Victor Martinez: "That's why I don't miss catching, all that grinding, all that beating."

And yet, when asked if a game-winning hit felt like a just reward, McCann shook his head.

"It's definitely very rewarding in a game like that," McCann said. "But as awesome as that game-winning double, the number of blocks I had was equally as important, if not more. It's a different ballgame if runners are going wild on the bases."

Video: DET@KC: Liriano K's Escobar in the bottom of the 4th

On a night when Liriano never found his command, throwing seven pitches in the dirt over 4 2/3 innings, according to Statcast™, his only wild pitch was a second-inning ball to Salvador Perez. Another skipped in front of home plate and hit Drew Butera. The rest were blocked by McCann, who could have made an audition tape as a goaltender for the National Hockey League's Red Wings.

Add in five Tigers relievers, and McCann blocked nine balls in the dirt, one of which caught him on his throwing hand. He lunged up for several others that nearly sailed past him.

"They were bouncing balls all over the place," Gardenhire said. "To take the beating that he did, balls bouncing off his face, off his knuckles, and then be able to step up there and get a hit for us was huge. That's kind of a catcher's life. Their job is mainly to get a pitcher through the innings. The good ones can find a few hits here and there, and he did tonight."

Video: DET@KC: McCann on Tigers' 5-4 win

If Monday ends up being Liriano's final start with the Tigers ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, he delivered a microcosm of his season in one wild outing. He walked two batters and gave up two runs on a pair of singles in a 27-pitch opening inning, stranded a pair of runners in a 23-pitch second, then struck out five batters his second trip through the order before Lucas Duda's second RBI single of the night chased Liriano in the fifth.

With scouts from the Phillies, Giants, Braves, Yankees and Dodgers in attendance, along with Tigers general manager Al Avila and his top assistants, Liriano yielded three runs on six hits over 4 2/3 innings, walking three, striking out six, hitting a batter.

"Sometimes I think I was trying to do too much and I'd overthrow," said Liriano, pitching on eight days' rest with the All-Star break.

Video: DET@KC: Adduci evens the score with a 2-run double

By contrast, Royals starter Heath Fillmyer gave up two singles and a walk through his first six innings, retiring 15 batters in order with one ball hit out of the infield. The Tigers pounced on his seventh-inning exit with back-to-back RBI singles off Kevin McCarthy to draw within a run, but they didn't complete their rally until the ninth against Brandon Maurer and Jason Hammel.

With Wily Peralta unavailable following three consecutive outings, the Tigers reeled off three consecutive hits, including a tying two-run double from Jim Adduci. With Hammel on in relief of Maurer, up came McCann, who pondered laying down a bunt until he saw third baseman Mike Moustakas playing in.

"Once that happened, really I was looking to drive the ball the other way," he said. "It was a hanging slider and I was able to put a good swing on it and ended up pulling it."

SOUND SMART
Though Monday marked the Tigers' 17th come-from-behind win this season, it's just their second when trailing after eight innings, and their first since an April 5 over the White Sox in chilly Chicago.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With scouts watching and teams evaluating potential trade interest, Jose Iglesias provided a reminder of his defensive prowess with a highlight flip to end the fourth inning. With second base behind him as he charged Rosell Herrera's grounder, Iglesias scooped the ball and flipped it in the same motion to second base, where Ronny Rodriguez took the throw for the out. More >

Video: DET@KC: Iglesias flashes leather to retire Butera

"Our shortstop is just phenomenal, just absolutely incredible out there with the glove and the plays that he can make," Gardenhire said.

HE SAID IT
"McCann, since he got to the big leagues, I've got to see him grow as a player, and I'm really proud of him. He has come a really long way. He's been able to separate his offense from his defense, which is huge. Watching him come up big in the top of the ninth is great." -- Martinez

UP NEXT
Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (4-1, 3.71 ERA) makes his first start in 13 days as the series against the Royals continues at 8:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium. Zimmermann underwent a nerve block injection in his back just before the All-Star break to try to continue his comeback story on the mound for the second half. Righty Burch Smith (0-1, 5.98 ERA) will start for the Royals.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Jim Adduci, Francisco Liriano, James McCann