06/27/2004 3:50 PM ET
Pena slam completes sweep
Walk-off tater in ninth sinks D-Backs
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT -- On the weekend the 1984 Tigers remembered the magic of this team's last world championship, the 2004 version found some heroics of their own.
|Carlos Pena knocked a two-out, walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning on Sunday. (Duane Burleson/AP)
"That celebration is just the ultimate celebration you can have in baseball," Carlos Pena said after hitting Detroit's second walk-off homer in 24 hours, a ninth-inning grand slam for a 9-5 victory over the Diamondbacks on Sunday. "I can only imagine how it would feel to win a World Series."
The Tigers heard plenty about what that's like from members of that club this weekend during the 20th anniversary celebration. But if these Tigers wanted any shot at their short-term goal of topping .500 by the All-Star break, or crashing the AL Central race this summer, they needed to make this their weekend.
This will do. Coupled with Eric Munson's 457-foot solo homer Saturday night, the Tigers posted walk-off homers in consecutive games for the first time since Damion Easley and Tony Clark did it in three straight games in 1998. Pena's walk-off grand slam was Detroit's first since Lou Whitaker in 1994.
Whitaker couldn't be here for the '84 celebration, but many of his teammates were.
"For my ex-teammates to see our team play like this," manager Alan Trammell said, "that means a lot."
Shorter-term, the Tigers headed into their final off day before the break tying a season high with four straight victories and their first series sweep since taking three straight in Toronto to open the season.
That opening series, Detroit scored so quickly that it gave the Blue Jays virtually no hope. All three games this weekend, the Tigers had to take the lead back.
Omar Infante led off the ninth inning Sunday by stretching out a double to the left-center field gap off Brandon Villafuerte (0-2).
Infante advanced to third on Bobby Higginson's fly ball to right before Mike Koplove intentionally walked Carlos Guillen and Dmitri Young to load the bases and set up a forceout. Koplove struck out Rondell White on three pitches to eliminate the sac fly, and he had a 1-2 count on Pena before leaving an outside changeup low and over the plate.
It made a winner out of Jamie Walker (1-2), who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Pena had seen everything from Steve Sparks knuckleballs to Elmer Dessens fastballs to sidearming lefty Randy Choate on Sunday. He barely stayed alive in the at-bat a pitch earlier by fouling off a changeup. He wasn't going to miss the next.
"Those changeups, they looked like straight fastballs and then they'd almost come back at him, like he was pulling them with a string," Pena said. "He threw me three in a row. I wasn't even thinking about hitting a home run, and look what happens."
Pena pulled the ball into the bullpen in right field. It traveled about 100 feet shorter than Eric Munson's record-setting 457-foot shot Saturday night.
"It counts the same," Munson said before Sunday's game, "as long as it clears the fence."
It seemingly felt the same. Pena couldn't remember touching first base.
"I have to see the video, because I have no idea what I was doing," Pena said. "I don't know if I jumped. I felt like doing [a fist pump] just to tease [bench coach Kirk Gibson] a little bit."
OK, so Gibson's fist pump came as a Dodger in the 1988 World Series, not '84. The '84 guys still got to watch.
"It's amazing how it works out that way," Pena said, "to have all these guys in town. I saw [Gates Brown] earlier and I was having fun with him. Well, he was watching today. He enjoyed it. So it's awesome to do something like this for them in the stadium watching us play. They must feel great."
So do the players who hit the home runs. Munson and Pena began the year as Detroit's starting corner infielders. The past two weeks, however, they've sat more than they played. Lately, it seemed like the Tigers kept Pena in storage for Kansas City pitching.
The message from Trammell was that those who produce will play, and Pena was struggling to do that. He entered the day batting .203 over his past 57 games, and his .233 average in June was his best of any month this season.
On Sunday, Pena scored both the Tigers' first and last runs. His 2-for-4 game was his second multi-hit effort in his last three starts.
"It sends a message, I think, to ourselves more than anything," Pena said. "Sometimes when things don't go your way, it's hard to keep on going. Well, Munson and I, we've been working all throughout this, and we're going to keep on working."
If they can keep on pulling out magic, they might have something.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.