TORONTO -- The Tigers entered Canada four days ago with a long losing streak and a coaching staff in flux. They nearly left Monday with two walk-off losses, a tough-luck blown lead for a veteran starter and a tough blown save for a young closer. As they packed up at
TORONTO -- The Tigers entered Canada four days ago with a long losing streak and a coaching staff in flux. They nearly left Monday with two walk-off losses, a tough-luck blown lead for a veteran starter and a tough blown save for a young closer. As they packed up at Rogers Centre with a four-game series split and a 3-2 extra-inning win Monday afternoon, they weren't giddy, but they were in a better spot than a couple days ago.
"The guys are playing," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've talked about just competing, just keep playing. And that's what they're doing."
They keep playing, game to game, or in Monday's case, inning to inning. They don't dwell, not on a losing streak, nor a pitch at the belt that could've ended the game if called.
"People can say, 'Oh, they're 2-11 in their last 13,'" James McCann said. "But as a person who's going through it on a daily basis, it's more of a day to day thought process. If you start thinking about what you've done as a team the last 15 days, it's a rollercoaster ride."
They keep playing. In Niko Goodrum's case, they keep hitting and running, his one-out triple in the 10th setting up a Jose Iglesias sacrifice fly for the deciding run.
"A 'W' is always big, no matter the situation," Goodrum said. "With that little streak we had, winning these last two is pretty big."
In the big picture, the Tigers won back-to-back games in a place where they had won three games over the previous four seasons combined, beating a Jays team that entered the series having won eight of its last nine at home. They won a season series from Toronto for the first time since 2013, Jim Leyland's final campaign.
Smaller picture, they didn't allow the emotional swing from a blown lead to sink them, nor the frustration with an umpire's strike zone. Just as the Tigers bounced back from their losing streak, they had to bounce back in extra innings after pinch-hitter Justin Smoak's bases-loaded walk tied the game with two outs in the ninth.
Joe Jimenez, filling in for injured Shane Greene at closer and facing the Jays slugger who beat him on a walk-off homer Saturday, had a 2-2 pitch at the belt that did not coax a call from plate umpire Nic Lentz. The motion of McCann to get out of his crouch as Jimenez was in his delivery suggested it was supposed to be higher.
"It was supposed to get him to chase," McCann said. "We ended up throwing it in the strike zone, and it was called a ball."
With the count full, Jimenez missed inside on his next fastball, tying the game. Though Jimenez walked three, one was intentional, and he had three close pitches that went for balls.
"It was a good pitch," Jimenez said. "I didn't get the call, but I have to do better after that. The pitch that mattered was the one after that."
McCann hadn't seen the pitches on the video, but said, "I do feel like we got squeezed a little bit in the ninth. It made Joe really work."
By recovering for a Luke Maile groundout, however, Jimenez continued the game to extras, where Goodrum's drive into the gap in right-center field rolled to the wall. That put him in position to score from Iglesias' fly ball to right.
The late-inning drama cost Fiers a chance at his first win since June 4 for what was his deepest start since his no-hitter for the Astros three years ago. He needed just 21 pitches, 19 of them strikes, to traverse Toronto's lineup in order through three innings, and just 89 pitches for the day.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Hardy for the save: With Greene injured and Jimenez having pitched the ninth, Gardenhire had a decision to make once the Tigers took the lead in the 10th. He played the matchups, using Buck Farmer to begin the inning, then turned to Blaine Hardy -- a member of the Tigers rotation a week ago -- once a leadoff single from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. brought up left-handed hitter Curtis Granderson with the tying run on base. Granderson bunted Gurriel to second, but Hardy struck out Randal Grichuk and retired Devon Travis for his first big league save.
"The adrenaline's a little bit higher," Hardy said, "especially when you're on the road and one run ties it."
Goodrum went from home to third on his triple in 11.31 seconds, according to Statcast™. It was the Tigers' fastest triple this season, and tied for their fastest since the start of last season.
"Out of the box, I was thinking three," Goodrum said. "In that situation, I have to try to get to third. It worked out."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Iglesias over the shoulder: Like he has before, Iglesias made the over-the-shoulder catch look routine, chasing down Yangervis Solarte's fly ball into left field with his back to home plate. He then turned and fired on target to the plate, holding Grichuk at third with one out in the fourth inning.
HE SAID IT
"I could've let him run back out there. And he said, 'If I go back out there [it's for] the full thing, I don't want you to take me out if I go back out.' That's not his decision. Him and I were laughing about it. Either you're in or you're out." -- Gardenhire, on the decision to pull Fiers for Jimenez to begin the ninth
ON THE MOVE
The Tigers optioned backup catcher Grayson Greiner to Triple-A Toledo after the game, and will select the contract of outfielder/first baseman Jim Adduci prior to Tuesday's game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Adduci, an early-season sparkplug for the Tigers last year before injuries sidelined him, batted .309 at Triple-A Toledo with 22 doubles, seven home runs and 44 RBIs. The left-handed hitter will be part of a platoon at first base, Gardenhire said, with John Hicks backing up McCann at catcher as well.
The Tigers return to the states for a two-game series against the Cubs, beginning with a 2:20 p.m. ET matinee Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Michael Fulmer (3-7, 4.20 ERA) gets the start for Detroit with a 1.83 ERA and 21 strikeouts over 19 2/3 innings against the National League this season. Kyle Hendricks (5-8, 4.21 ERA) gets the ball for Chicago.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.