DETROIT — After blowing a save the night before, the Tigers were facing a similar situation again in the ninth with Justin Wilson on the mound. But with the tying runner on second, Wilson gained the upper hand and slammed the door in the Orioles’ face on a check swing of Manny Machado.
“Of course, I’d like it a little less nerve-wracking,” Wilson said. “Really, I don’t want to get to Machado, or (Adam) Jones. I’d like to get the first three guys out. Put some really good ABs together. Didn’t feel like I had my best stuff. Good enough to get the save, though.”
Leading by one run. The situation was a mirror image of Tuesday night, only with a higher total score. The pressure was palpable, the roaring home crowd of 29,722 on its feet. After the smooth eighth inning from Alex Wilson, who needed just 10 pitches, the Tigers were hoping for a continuation from Justin.
A tough leadoff ninth-inning infield single from Trey Mancini to Jose Iglesias quickly stomped on that hope, and Justin Wilson would have to fight for two of the next three outs. Following Tuesday night’s four-out blown attempted save, his saving grace was that J.J. Hardy struck out on three pitches, a foul tip 97 mph fastball up and in.
Joey Rickard, though, walked on six pitches — a pitch that, for what it’s worth, straddled the strike zone but was mishandled by catcher James McCann. It should have been a called third strike. A flyout of Adam Jones to right gave the Tigers two outs, but at 24 pitches, Wilson needed to battle.
With Chris Davis on-deck, Manny Machado fell into a 1-2 count. Wilson’s stuff was working well, even after two misses (one high and another slightly up and in by a lot). Of the next two check swings, Wilson said that he thought Machado swung through more on the fifth pitch than he did on the one that ended the game. But that’s not how first base umpire C.B. Bucknor saw it, so the inning continued after pitch No. 5.
Neither of the final two check swings were on balls inside the strike zone, though the fifth did border the inside edge. Still, three straight 97 mph fastballs was more than enough to shake up Machado and get him to swing awkwardly. The 30th pitch of the inning did the trick, and the Orioles third baseman couldn’t hold his swing — even though Wilson didn’t like how high the pitch ended up.
“It’s never easy when you’re closing, and it’s never easy when you’re closing a one-run game,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “You have a very small margin of error. But I think it’s good that he got right back on the horse and was able to get the job done, put yesterday behind him.”
In a change of fortunes for the Tigers, Wednesday night’s game ended fortuitously. Wilson got the save, Michael Fulmer earned the win, and Tyler Collins smacked his career-first two-homer game. All without the help of most of the Tigers offense and avoiding the Orioles’ hot bats at the same time.