Sardinha sends Tigers to sweep
Backup catcher's first Major League hit the game-winner
DETROIT -- Dane Sardinha said he wanted to leave an impression while he had the chance. Knocking home the game-winning run with a triple did the trick.
A handshake from Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski afterward confirmed it.
Sardinha made an impression, all right. The two-run triple -- his first Major League hit -- helped the Tigers complete a three-game sweep of the Rockies with a 4-3 win on Sunday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 41,305 at Comerica Park. The victory gave Detroit a winning record for the first time this season.
"Knocking in two runs was awesome," the soft-spoken Sardinha said. "To get RBIs on my first hit is pretty special for me."
The Tigers trailed, 3-2, most of the game until Sardinha, who was called up on Wednesday to fill in for injured backup catcher Brandon Inge, came through in the sixth. Sardinha blasted a fastball from Rockies reliever Matt Herges into one of the deepest parts of the ballpark in left-center field. Marcus Thames and Edgar Renteria scored to give the Tigers the lead.
Sardinha made his third career Major League start. He started one game for the Reds in 2005 and his first game with the Tigers on Thursday. He came into Sunday's game 0-for-9 in the big leagues.
"That's probably going to be my first and last triple," Sardinha said. "I was thinking, 'Thank God it's not right at somebody.' That was the first thing. Then I'm rounding second and I'm like, 'Do I go? Do I stay?' It all worked out, though."
Todd Jones, one night removed from his first blown save since September, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to close out Detroit's fifth straight win and third sweep in its last six series.
Moving over the .500 mark didn't provide reason for celebration in the Tigers' clubhouse. But at least it officially makes them a winning baseball team.
"We've dug ourselves a pretty substantial hole, and we got a lot of work to do," Jones said. "But we have all the right parts that we can overcome it. It's like a race. If you're racing in a Pinto and you fall behind, you don't feel too good. But if you're racing in a Ferrari, you're feeling pretty good."
The Tigers have won 17 of their last 21 games. They expelled a great deal of energy battling early season mishaps, so could their high-octane engine run out of fuel now that they've overcome them?
|"He caught an excellent game. He can really catch and throw. He's got a lot of poise back there, doesn't get excited, doesn't panic. He did a great job."|
|-- Tigers manager Jim Leyland, on Dane Sardinha|
Rogers, who got the win after allowing three runs in six innings, was impressed by Sardinha's hit. But he was more awed by his catching ability. Before Sunday, the two had only worked together sparingly in Spring Training. Rogers said they had to make some adjustments, but overall, Sardinha showed outstanding game-calling ability.
"The hit was great and all, but he was fantastic behind the plate, which is even more important," Rogers said. "But the hit, without a doubt, was huge. It was icing on the cake."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland admired Sardinha's arm. Sardinha threw out Rockies speedster Willy Tavares trying to steal second base in the second inning. It marked just the fourth time this season Tavares was caught in 40 attempts.
"He caught an excellent game," Leyland said. "He can really catch and throw. He's got a lot of poise back there, doesn't get excited, doesn't panic. He did a great job."
After Sardinha gave his team the lead for good, Detroit relievers Freddy Dolsi and Jones set down the final nine Colorado hitters to end the game. Jones only needed 12 pitches to cruise through the ninth, compared to the 28 it took as he allowed four runs a day ago.
Leyland never questioned bringing Jones into the game.
"Jones was fantastic. To come right back after last night, I think that says something for him," the skipper said. "That's what you have to do as a manager. He's your closer. If you have an opportunity the next day, you better bring him back in or you've got a chance to lose him. He responded very, very well."
So, have the Tigers rebounded from a turbulent first two months of the season? Time will tell. But they're a winning baseball team. Considering how the season has unfolded, that's a good starting point for the second half.
"I think we understand we're not doing anything we can't do for the rest of the year," Rogers said.
Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.