A tense, fast-paced, low scoring game completely flipped its script in the late innings on Sunday. Neither bullpen covered themselves in glory, but the Tigers put together a rally in the 11th, loaded the bases, and won when Robbie Grossman drew a walk for his fourth walkoff of the season.
Tarik Skubal got the start, but was limited to three innings of work. He made the most of them, carving through the Rays lineup with six strikeouts and no runs allowed. Skubal really just let the fastball eat, dialing it up to 98 mph and only occasionally mixing in the slider, change, and curveball.
On the other side of the ledger, Rays’ rookie Luis Patiño was impressive early on as well. Still, the Tigers managed to break through in the third on a one-out double from Dustin Garneau, and a lined single to right field off the bat of Victor Reyes.
Nelson Cruz did Nelson Cruz things to tie the game in the top of the fourth, belting a solo shot to left against Jose Ureña, but Jeimer Candelario had the answer, smoking a solo shot of his own to re-open a one-run lead in the bottom of the inning.
This one stays between the yellow uprights!— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 12, 2021
Candy's homer is good! pic.twitter.com/SW20kTGipR
Ureña did a nice job in relief of Skubal. Other than Cruz’s home run, He allowed just a single and a walk in three innings of work, turning things over to the bullpen still holding a one-run lead.
Michael Fulmer came on in the seventh and allowed a leadoff single to Taylor Walls on a blooper that froze Akil Baddoo briefly and was just out of the reach of Niko Goodrum running into shallow center field. However, Fulmer got a ground out, and then Joey Wendle lined out sharply to Harold Castro at second base, and Walls was easily doubled off at first. The Tigers also went quickly in the bottom of the seventh.
To this point, it had been a tight, well-pitched game that moved swiftly along. In the eighth, things started to get a little crazy. Jose Cisnero came on and for the second straight appearance was oddly hittable. Austin Meadows led off with a single, and then Brett Phillips went oppo for a two-run shot to seize a one-run lead. Cisnero was a complete mess, hitting Randy Arozarena and then walking Manuel Margot. A.J. Hinch yanked him and turned to Alex Lange instead.
Lange got Cruz to fly out to the warning track in center field, advancing both runners. Yandy Diaz then drilled a one-hopper past Jeimer Candelario for a two-run double, and it was 5-2 Rays. Lange recovered to get a pair of ground outs to mercifully end the half inning.
Kevin Cash brought on David Robertson in the bottom of the eighth, and the Tigers quickly bounced right back. Akil Baddoo, who ripped several balls right at Phillips in right field on the day, this time spanked a single back through the box to lead off the inning. Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman followed with singles to load the base. Miguel Cabrera stepped to the dish and smoked a line drive single to center field to score Baddoo and Schoop. Derek Hill came on to pinch run for Cabrera as the potential tying run. Candelario grounded into a force out as Ji-Man Choi threw home to get Grossman. Harold Castro followed with a line out to right field. Hill advanced to third, but the throw back into the infield got away from Joey Wendle and Derek Hill raced home to tie the game.
The ninth inning was pretty uneventful. A Mike Zunino fly ball got away from Akil Baddoo in center, but Gregory Soto was able to erase him. In the bottom of the ninth, Hinch pinch-hit Eric Haase for Garneau and Haase responded with a sharp single to left-center field, but was stranded as the Tigers went in order from there.
Soto came back out for the 10th and couldn’t get it done. He got Margot to fly out to right field, advancing Choi, who started on second base, to third. Hinch intentionally walked Cruz, which was sensible, but Diaz came through with a double to score Choi and move Cruz to third, where he scored on a Kevin Kiermaier ground out. Soto allowed no more, but things did not look good at all.
In the bottom of the 10th, with Schoop on second to start the frame, Grossman flew out and Hill grounded out, bringing up Candelario. Down to his last strike in a 2-2 count, the red hot Tigers’ third baseman hammered his second homer of the game into the right field seats, and we were all tied up once again. This team does not quit, and we love it.
Thought we were playing baseball not Candy Crush! pic.twitter.com/IZFAAeDbwj— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 12, 2021
Kyle Funkhouser took over in the 11th, and was able to pitch around a one-out walk to Phillips. Funk punched out Choi, and then Harold Castro made a nice sliding stop on a grounder headed up the middle from Margot for the final out of the inning.
The stage was set. Cash turned to J.P. Feyereisen, and the Tigers’ faithful got loud as Goodrum took second base and the inning got underway. Haase flew out to left, but Victor Reyes and Baddoo drew back-to-back walks as Feyereisen struggled to throw strikes. Schoop grounded one to shortstop and then were able to throw home to force Goodrum, and again the Tigers needed a two-out knock. Instead, Grossman watched ball four miss just down and in, Reyes jogged home, and the Tigers had themselves a literal walkoff win, and a series victory over the best team in the American League.