Keep it simple: Narrative pays off

Trailing by five in ninth, Tigers erupt for eight runs

July 1st, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG -- Ian Kinsler could not fake an answer when asked at what point in the midst of the Tigers' eight-run ninth inning and 10-7 win over the Rays when he felt like his team could pull off an epic comeback.

"When Cameron [Maybin] hit the [go-ahead] double," he said with a slight smirk.

It doesn't necessarily fit the always-believe narrative. It fits into the Tigers' approach, especially considering Maybin's bases-clearing drive -- a liner that shot the gap and rolled to the wall in left-center -- was the only extra-base hit of the rally.

There was no signature home run, no one hit that outweighed the others until Maybin's double his second time up. There wasn't even a particularly long at-bat; even Kinsler's game-tying walk lasted six pitches with no two-strike fouls to stay alive.

Detroit's biggest comeback in three years came together on six singles, two walks and a sacrifice fly. The common denominator was the approach.

"You have to pass the baton to the next guy," said Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whose ground ball against the infield shift went through the usual shortstop spot. "No one went up there trying to hit a home run. Everyone went up there just trying to get on base, let the next guy do his job. That's a great way of playing."

It was a comeback built on trust in the next guy in the order. It began with Maybin's leadoff single off Ryan Garton, the rookie reliever with the unfortunate task of getting the middle of the Tigers' order with a five-run lead in the ninth. It ended with Maybin's double off Erasmo Ramirez, the former starter turned setup reliever.

"You're not really thinking about trying to rally," said Maybin. "You're just thinking about doing the job and trying to pass the baton."

Maybin led off the rally with a bouncer through the right side. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez hit grounders up the middle, the latter scoring Maybin. Nick Castellanos hit a soft line drive into short left to load the bases and chase Garton, who gave up four singles in 13 pitches.

Justin Upton, among the league leaders in strikeouts until recently, lined a 2-0 pitch to center off Ramirez to make it a 7-4 game. Steven Moya's ensuing sacrifice fly to right might have been the best-struck ball of the bunch.

"The energy's kind of building, you know," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's building and building as you can sense there's a chance."

Saltalamacchia, who has hit his share of crushing home runs this year, kept it simple.

"He was having trouble finding the strike zone, so you're hoping he misses," Saltalamacchia said. "You're looking for one location, one spot that you can hit. If he doesn't throw it there, you take it. "He threw a fastball that ran up and away, and I was able to hit a routine ground ball to shortstop."

The shortstop, however, was shifted. Castellanos scored, and Upton went to third as the potential tying run. Once Jose Iglesias walked on four pitches, the bases were loaded again, still with one out.

Kinsler worked a 3-0 count, fouled off a 3-1 pitch and then took ball four to plate the tying run. With Ramirez reeling, back came Maybin. And the on-base mode that has gotten Maybin this far adjusted a bit.

"My approach changes a little bit, looking for something you can get the head out and hopefully get to the outfield as opposed to letting it travel like I usually do," he said. "I was able to do the job, man. It was a fun way to win a game."