Despite two baserunners, Tigers closer Joe Nathan managed to pitch a scoreless ninth inning against his old team Sunday, and he was rewarded with a victory as Detroit beat the Twins in the bottom of the inning.
Victor Martinez strong again in Tigers' victory
- Associated Press
- June 16, 2014 - 3:35 AM
DETROIT — Victor Martinez thought he had just beaten the Minnesota Twins Sunday.
He didn't mind settling for a supporting role.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth and Torii Hunter on first base, Martinez launched a ball to deep right field that he and everyone in the park was going to be a walk-off homer. Martinez lingered near the plate, watching the ball sail toward the bleachers, then realized he better start running.
The ball came down inches short of the top of the wall, where Oswaldo Arcia dropped it for his second huge defensive mistake of the game — both on flyballs by Martinez.
Instead of a home-run trot, Martinez scrambled to first, while Hunter ended up at third.
"I thought that one was gone," he said. "I got all of that one, but it just died at the end. Luckily, it got the runner to third. Every little bit helps when you are tied in the ninth."
J.D. Martinez followed with a fly to medium-depth center. Hunter never hesitated, and scored easily when Sam Fuld's throw was badly off line.
"You never know what is going to happen on a play like that, but once the ball came out of his hand, I knew we were OK," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "It was an easy decision for Torii — you have to go on a ball like that and make them make the play."
The game still wasn't officially over, as Ron Gardenhire had his players appeal to third, thinking that Hunter might have left early, but the umpires ruled he had scored legally.
Gardenhire knew that the Twins could have won the game, and the weekend series, if Arcia hadn't struggled so badly in right field. On Saturday, he misjudged two balls at the wall, both of them bouncing back over his head and forcing the center fielder to run them down, and he struggled again on Sunday.
"We missed some plays, and when you miss a play, you just get beat," Gardenhire said. "He just missed that last ball out there."
Hunter led off the ninth with a single off Casey Fein (3-3), and Miguel Cabrera rifled a line drive that almost knocked over shortstop Dany Santana as he made a leaping catch.
Joe Nathan (3-2) pitched a scoreless ninth. He, Fein and Hunter were all playing against the teams where they started their major-league careers — Nathan and Hunter with the Twins and Fein with Detroit.
Nathan had struggled in his last six outings, allowing 11 runs in four innings, and Ausmus was happier with what he saw on Sunday.
"I saw the winning pitcher," he said. "I thought his fastball was more consistently down, although he did leave a couple up, and his slider had good break."
Twins starter Ricky Nolasco allowed three runs in 5 1-3 innings, while Detroit's Rick Porcello pitched seven, also giving up three runs.
While Porcello took a no-decision, his start was the fourth straight above-average outing for a rotation that has struggled along with the rest of the team in recent weeks. The Tigers won three of the games, and lost the fourth 2-0.
"Everything starts with your pitching, and that's especially true with this team," he said. "It's been huge for us to put these four good games together, because it is our job to pitch deep into games, give the team a chance to win every day and make sure we don't overstress the bullpen."
© 2015 Star Tribune