CLEVELAND -- Justin Upton's stroll around the bases on his two-run homer Sunday lasted 31.2 seconds, according to Statcast™, the slowest lap by a Tiger not named Victor Martinez this year. It may or may not have included the bat flip at home plate.Upton has been known to admire home
CLEVELAND -- Justin Upton's stroll around the bases on his two-run homer Sunday lasted 31.2 seconds, according to Statcast™, the slowest lap by a Tiger not named Victor Martinez this year. It may or may not have included the bat flip at home plate.
Upton has been known to admire home runs, but this one was bigger than him. Like his teammates, that swing, and the deliberate strides afterward, took out some frustration, as did the Tigers' 9-5 win over the Indians.
"He definitely took his time around the bases," Indians catcher Chris Gimenez said, "but the situation of the game, I completely understand it."
The Tigers were frustrated about three teammates being hit by Trevor Bauer pitches, frustrated about their struggles to beat Cleveland all season, frustrated about a postseason chase that has turned on them over the last week and a half.
After seeing Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Martinez all reeling, they'd had it.
"No one likes to get hit," catcher James McCann said, "but you look at the way they got hit -- Miggy up on his hands, Kinsler in the head, and then Victor -- I think the stat was that he'd thrown 10 balls at the time and three of them drilled a guy.
"I have no problem pitching in, but three guys? That's gonna wake somebody up."
The Tigers were wide awake. They were angry. But instead of getting out of control, they were focused.
"It certainly can create focus," manager Brad Ausmus said. "You get a little bit angrier, you get a little more focused."
The bases-loaded situation that Bauer's wildness created became a three-run third inning. Martinez's hit-by-pitch ended a 15-inning scoreless streak since Friday's series opener, scoring Kinsler as the latter yelled at home-plate umpire Jordan Baker to warn Bauer. But it was Erick Aybar's opposite-field two-run single that opened the game for the Tigers.
Had the Tigers left the bases loaded with one run scored, and off Bauer's wildness at that, the frustrations might have mounted. But Aybar's hit created an emotional release.
"That's a big inning right there," Aybar said. "Three guys had gotten hit. I went to the plate and said, 'I'm going to look for one pitch and put on contact.'"
Upton, who had struck out on three pitches earlier, was at the top of the dugout, greeting Cameron Maybin and Cabrera. He got his big hit his next time up in the fifth inning, extending Detroit's lead to 5-2. The Tigers never relinquished the lead from there, though they came close before J.D. Martinez's three-run homer in the ninth created the final margin.
As for the pitching side, Tigers starter Daniel Norris said he lost his footing due to a hole in the mound when his first pitch of the third inning, after Kinsler and Martinez had been hit, veered behind former teammate Rajai Davis. He left it at that following warnings to both benches, but pounded his glove on his way back into the dugout after retiring the Indians in order from there.
"For me, I like to think of baseball in the old-school way," he said, "but to be honest, I don't want anybody on base. I'm not trying to give up runs. I don't want to give up our lead at that time. I just want to get outs."
He got enough. And with just their second win in 15 meetings with Tribe this season, the Tigers could at least leave Progressive Field with some feeling of satisfaction.
"First off, I want to extend my apologies to Ian, Victor and Miguel," Bauer said. "The scouting report is to pitch in. I obviously did not intend to hit any of them. Regardless of game situation or anything that could happen in a game, I would never intentionally throw at someone's head. That has no place in the game. I know saying sorry for it doesn't change that it happened."
Bauer's apology was appreciated, but the win meant more.
"You want to end that little streak they were on," Norris said. "We want to compete and show them that we mean business. It was a huge team win today."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.