Tigers ride big inning to win in Seattle
Seven-run first inning does all the damage against Mariners
SEATTLE -- That was more of the flow Tigers manager Jim Leyland wanted to see, even if it came against a team flowing in the wrong direction.
What the Tigers' season-opening struggles did for the White Sox, the Mariners' woes against the Tigers seem to be doing for Detroit. But there was more to the game that Leyland liked than simply the numbers on the scoreboard in the 7-4 win over the M's.
That sync, that flow that Leyland has been seeking, showed signs of building.
"The team was in great spirits tonight," Leyland said. "I don't know what's going to happen. We're facing a very good pitcher [Saturday]. We might get shut out. But I was happy with the smell."
Later, Leyland called the win one of their best of the season.
"I thought the flow really worked good tonight," Leyland said. "The players made it work good."
Coupled with Wednesday's win over the Angels, Friday's victory earned the Tigers back-to-back wins on the road for the first time since sweeping the Yankees at the end of April. Detroit has gone 9-16 since that trip to the Bronx, but four of those wins have come at Seattle's expense.
Mariners starter Carlos Silva (3-5) has built a well-earned reputation for giving up hits and containing the damage, and the Tigers entered the year batting over .300 off him for his career. Their two meetings over the last 11 days, however, have shown no struggles on Detroit's part to pile up RBIs on the former Twins starter who signed with the Mariners as a free agent last winter.
Once Detroit's first three batters singled against Silva on Friday, including Carlos Guillen's RBI liner to left to score Curtis Granderson, the situation was set for another Tigers breakout. Marcus Thames doubled in Placido Polanco, Miguel Cabrera singled in Guillen, then Jeff Larish's first Major League at-bat saw him beat out a double-play throw to allow Thames to score.
Finally, Brandon Inge smacked a line drive off the center-field fence for a two-run triple, stretching the Tigers lead to 6-0 and sending Silva out of the game. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings to halt the assault, but he could do nothing about the deficit.
That was part of the reason for the flow. The rest came later. In between, Detroit starter Nate Robertson had a touchdown lead by the time he took the mound, the best antidote he was going to find for the illness he was battling while he pitched.
"It's an interesting situation," Robertson said with what was left of his voice afterwards. "You have to attack, but don't throw up cookies."
While most of the team has battled a cold-like virus this week since arriving on the West Coast, Robertson had a particularly bad case on Friday.
"He was struggling," catcher Inge said. "At one point to start an inning, I saw him bent over behind the mound, hacking up a lung. I know he didn't feel very well, but he dug down deep and he got it done."
A pair of Adrian Beltre home runs were the only hits Robertson (3-5) allowed through the first five innings, and both of those were solo shots on pitches where Robertson missed his spots. It wasn't until the sixth that fatigue caught up with him; back-to-back hits to start the inning led to consecutive RBI groundouts, whittling the lead to three.
When Robertson lost Raul Ibanez to a two-out walk, he was at 107 pitches as Beltre stepped back up to the plate. Leyland replaced Robertson with right-hander Freddy Dolsi, who showed his fearlessness against sluggers when he struck out Vladimir Guerrero on Monday with a slider in the strike zone.
This time, he threw back-to-back mid-90s fastballs at Beltre, who grounded the second one to short for an inning-ending fielder's choice to second.
"Huge," Leyland said of the out. "Dolsi's done a good job. You don't want to put the cart before the horse, but one thing about him: He's not afraid. He's going to go in there and throw his pitches."
There, too, Leyland noted a better flow. Dolsi stayed in to retire the side in the seventh, stranding Miguel Cairo at second after a two-out double. Zach Miner retired the M's in order in the eighth to set up Todd Jones' eighth save of the season.
For Jones, it was his first save since May 20 -- also against the Mariners. But it was about more than the opponent; for Leyland, it was about the flow.
"Dolsi came in and did the job, threw strikes," Leyland said. "Miner came in and strikes. Jones threw strikes. Boom, boom, boom, the game's over. I mean, that's a flow. That's a good flow."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.