DETROIT -- Ron Gardenhire heard the chants after John Hicks' go-ahead two-run single in the eighth and couldn't figure out what fans were saying. With the Blue Jays in town, the Tigers manager had heard an evenly-split crowd of Toronto and Detroit fans cheering plays on both sides, but what
DETROIT -- Ron Gardenhire heard the chants after John Hicks' go-ahead two-run single in the eighth and couldn't figure out what fans were saying. With the Blue Jays in town, the Tigers manager had heard an evenly-split crowd of Toronto and Detroit fans cheering plays on both sides, but what he was hearing took a few seconds to absorb.
"I didn't know what they were yelling," Gardenhire said. "I was trying to get Hicks out of that, like Hick-oooose."
Hicks heard the chants as well and put it together.
"Goooooose," the fans were shouting. "Goooooose."
"At first, I was kind of wondering what it was," Hicks said. "But then I realized: The goose is loose around here. It's a big thing."
With Saturday's 7-4 victory at Comerica Park pulling Detroit within two games of .500, having won eight of 10, the Rally Goose legend is becoming bigger by the day. The Tigers have won four in a row since the Canada goose's wayward flight in Comerica during a rain delay Wednesday night. They've won three in a row since buying a plastic goose and putting it on their dugout railing during games.
The actual goose really is loose now, released into the wild after being treated by Michigan State University's veterinary medicine department. The legend goes on, with the Tigers making a rally video featuring footage of the goose's antics Wednesday.
"I think it's awesome," Hicks said. "The fans love it. We have the goose and all. It's great. But this team's had a lot of fight, even before we got the goose."
Hicks' game was a microcosm of that. Gardenhire called him a savior at first base filling in for injured Jose Cabrera, but while he entered Saturday with a base hit in each of his last seven starts, he struck out swinging in each of his first three at-bats against J.A. Happ and John Axford -- just his second three-strikeout game of the season.
The Tigers unveiled their Rally Goose video going into the bottom of the eighth inning with a 4-4 score. Miguel Cabrera's one-out single and Victor Martinez's ground-rule double set up the rally off Seunghwan Oh (1-1).
With first base open, the Jays opted to intentionally walk Niko Goodrum and create a chance for an out at every base. Hicks stepped up, needing to get the ball into the outfield to plate the go-ahead run.
Forget the goose chant. Hicks was trying to avoid striking out and hearing boos.
"You're just grinding," Gardenhire said. "You're trying to put the ball in play, fighting it off. The last thing he wanted to do was strike out again. He shortened his swing up and he took some really nice swings and fouled off some really tough pitches. He was in the fight mode, and you could see that."
Hicks saw five consecutive fastballs from Oh, all in the upper half of the strike zone or above. He fouled them all off, including one about chest-high to keep an at-bat going. Oh finally changed speeds and induced Hicks to chase a slider off the plate.
"It was just off the plate, away," Hicks said. "I was able to get enough of it to get it through."
Pinch-runners Victor Reyes and Ronny Rodriguez scored. Goodrum moved to third base, before strolling home on JaCoby Jones' sacrifice fly.
Tigers starter Matthew Boyd survived spotty offspeed pitches to last seven innings in a no-decision. Louis Coleman (3-0) retired the middle of the Jays lineup in order in the eighth for the win. With Shane Greene having pitched in Detroit's last three games, Joe Jimenez worked the ninth for his first Major League save.
As the Tigers rushed out of the dugout for congratulations, Mike Fiers brought out the plastic goose. The crowd started chanting again.
"Pretty wild," Gardenhire said. "I guess they're into it, and that's a good thing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Put it on the Underhills' bill: Umpires often get grief for ejecting players quickly for arguing calls, but plate umpire Andy Fletcher showed restraint with Cabrera and Jones that likely kept both in the game. Cabrera exchanged words with Fletcher following a first-inning strikeout, then Jones pointed at Fletcher while disputing a called third strike in the fifth inning. Fletcher let them have their say, but avoided the quick hook.
"Anytime you stop and start talking with the umpire, you have a good chance to get rung real quick," Gardenhire said. "I'm not fast enough to get out there and get in the middle of it."
Jeimer Candelario's first career leadoff home run extended his on-base streak to 27 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the Majors.
HE SAID IT
"The crowd was unbelievable for both sides -- a lot of Blue Jay fans and a lot of Tiger fans. The stadium was electric, and it was a nice win for our ballclub." -- Gardenhire, on the atmosphere at Comerica Park, where a large contingent of Blue Jays fans made the trip over from neighboring Ontario
The crowd, announced at 34,674, was the largest at Comerica Park since Opening Day.
Michael Fulmer (2-4, 4.60) will try to shake his recent struggles when he starts Sunday's series finale opposite fellow talented young right-hander Aaron Sanchez (2-5, 4.77) in a 1:10 ET matinee at Comerica Park. Fulmer is 2-0 with 14 innings of one-run ball in two career starts against Toronto.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.