Tigers squeak out win over O's
Casey comes through with big pinch-hit in the eighth
DETROIT -- Sean Casey was simply glad to be able to hold down a meal when his Tuesday began. By the end of the night, he had given the Tigers a lift.
"Just what the doctor ordered, believe me," Casey said.
It was also what the skipper had in mind. Casey's pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI single spurred a two-run eighth inning for the Tigers, giving them a lead they held onto for a 5-4 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
It was a quite a comeback for Casey from a health standpoint, since he hadn't played since Saturday. He's hoping it spurs a comeback at the plate for him, because he hasn't hit as well as he'd like since the season began.
He's not the only one hoping.
"I was really glad to see him get that one tonight," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's had a tough time in clutch situations, RBI situations. He's been hitting the ball hard, and didn't get anything to show for it. I'm not saying that he's been robbed, but he has been in some situations, hit the ball sharply with men on, and hadn't gotten anything to show for it. So I was really glad to see him come up with a big RBI in a big situation, and hopefully something like that gets a guy going."
Not only had Casey been out of action since Saturday, but at times, he wasn't at the ballpark. Leyland sent him home Sunday morning when he came in feeling ill, not just for Casey's own good but for the rest of the team. Brandon Inge had already battled the flu bug, and soon Jason Grilli was reeling from the effects. Leyland didn't want it spreading further.
Casey returned on Monday and Leyland nearly used him as a pinch-hitter then, but Casey felt worse as the game went on and eventually had to sit back down.
When he came in Tuesday, he was sure he was through it, having kept down a sandwich as proof. Leyland said he had no hesitation using him.
Casey wasn't the only Tigers regular sitting the bench to start the game for health reasons. Shortstop Carlos Guillen was on the front end of what Leyland planned as back-to-back games off. He was available off the bench, but Leyland wanted to combine the games off with Thursday's off-day to rest his sore throwing shoulder.
Both of them had their chance once the Tigers came up in the eighth. Guillen, pinch-hitting for Marcus Thames, led off the inning by watching four straight balls from Danys Baez (0-1). Inge's sacrifice bunt moving Guillen to second prompted Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo to intentionally walk Curtis Granderson and bring up Neifi Perez's spot in the order.
Casey, hitting for Perez, wasn't just trying to heal his body. His .192 average, and one RBI through 23 games entering Tuesday, looked anemic, the lowest April batting average of his 11-year Major League career. Included in that was a .105 average (2-for-19) with runners in scoring position.
"He's a professional hitter," Leyland said. "You look at his career numbers, and it's pretty impressive. He's going to get on a roll."
If he had been robbed of big hits in April, his first hit of May had a bit of fortune to get an RBI. Not only did he slap an 0-1 pitch just past a diving Melvin Mora at third base, but Mora deflected the ball just enough on its way into left field that Jay Gibbons didn't have a play on Guillen at the plate.
"I kind of struggled through the month of April," Casey said. "Hopefully it's a good sign for me in May."
The Tigers, both individually and collectively, were hoping for the same thing themselves. With Tuesday's win, they had their longest winning streak of the season. And with 5 1/3 innings of effective relief from their bullpen, they hoped to have finally solved one of the early weak spots on their club.
Chad Durbin, hoping to find some momentum coming off of eight scoreless innings last Wednesday against the White Sox, instead struggled to simply find the strike zone. With six walks over 3 2/3 innings, including two to leadoff menace Brian Roberts, Durbin became the first Tigers pitcher to walk a half-dozen batters in an outing of less than four innings since Mark Johnson in 2000, according to research on Baseball-Reference.com.
After looking at film, Durbin realized he wasn't following through on his pitches, and wasn't in sync mechanically.
"I wasn't throwing the ball through the plate," he said, "but to it. And it didn't get there with life."
Back-to-back walks with two outs in the fourth brought Leyland out to pull Durbin with 95 pitches thrown, just 46 of them strikes. With Fernando Rodney and Wilfredo Ledezma unavailable after pitching Monday night, plus Grilli sick, Leyland needed to find some innings.
Enter Bobby Seay. On the day that ex-Tiger Jamie Walker made his first appearance against his former club, his potential replacement as lefty specialist turned in his biggest outing in a Detroit uniform.
Seay retired seven consecutive batters after entering in the fourth with runners at the corners. A three-run Tigers fifth, capped by Craig Monroe's two-run homer, put Seay in line for what would've been his first Major League win since 2001, but he finally tired out in the eighth.
"I had to request a little bit more out of him tonight," Leyland said, "and he did a fantastic job. He's been doing it all year."
Just when Seay tired out, the game was late enough for Joel Zumaya (1-1). He allowed Miguel Tejada's game-tying single, but recovered to retire Baltimore's next five batters, the last four by strikeout. He pumped his fist upon putting a curveball on the corner for a called third strike on Corey Patterson.
"It was just a good tonight," Zumaya said. "I felt good tonight. Everything was there."
Including a healthy Casey.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.