Tigers escape with sixth straight victory
Everett hits clutch decisive single; Rodney walks tightrope
DETROIT -- The fireworks over the Detroit River burst out over the downtown skyline beyond center field at Comerica Park. The fireworks in the ballpark never quite seemed to develop, though not for lack of opportunity.
Fittingly, the grand finale was in full display as Tigers closer Fernando Rodney finished off Kosuke Fukudome on a full-count high changeup, wrapping up Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Cubs. He was the potential winning run at the plate, as was Jake Fox before him, and Milton Bradley two batters earlier.
Rodney again escaped a ninth-inning jam, saving some of his better pitches for when he absolutely needed them to go 15-for-15 in save chances. It wasn't smooth, but with 14 walks combined between the two clubs, neither were the previous eight innings.
The Tigers and Cubs combined to go 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position and stranded 24 runners on base. But Detroit not only drew two bases-loaded walks from Chicago relievers, it came up with arguably the one deciding clutch hit of the game -- fittingly, an Adam Everett infield single just far enough away that third baseman Fox couldn't recover in time for a play after his diving stop.
It wasn't always a pretty win, but with six straight wins, clutch plays are turning their way.
"We did a good job and we won the game," manager Jim Leyland said. "We made some big pitches when we had to. But we can't give them that many opportunities."
The way Rick Porcello has been rolling at times this season, it's easy to forget that he's still a 20-year-old pitcher finding his game and learning how to adjust at the Major League level, pitching every fifth game. It says something about his season, then, that his four walks Wednesday were enough for a career high.
His two double plays weren't a season high, but they both proved critical.
After a Micah Hoffpauir single and Milton Bradley walk put two on with nobody out in the second, Porcello nearly escaped the entire threat on one Fox grounder thanks to Brandon Inge.
He fielded the ball and dashed to third for the first out. Then instead of firing across the infield to first, he made a leaping turn and throw to second to force out Bradley. Only a step or two by Fox prevented a ground-ball triple play.
"It would've been one of a kind," said Inge, who admitted he's dreamed about that play. "It never really works out. I mean, you really have to have the stars aligned for that one."
For Tigers pitching, they almost seemed to be. An inning later, a fielder's choice at third and a more traditional twin-killing allowed Porcello to overcome a leadoff double.
"I think the biggest thing was just to keep us in the game, give us a chance," Porcello said.
So did some of the pitchers who followed him. After a walk and two singles off Porcello and Nate Robertson gave the Cubs a bases-loaded, no-out chance for the second straight night, the Tigers limited the damage to one run again thanks to Zach Miner, who retired the side in order. A bases-loaded, one-out chance in the seventh allowed Fox to tie the game with a sacrifice fly off Brandon Lyon, but nothing more.
Joel Zumaya, one night after giving up a go-ahead homer on a changeup, erased a two-out single in the eighth with a shrewder mix of pitches, capped with a 102-mph fastball to fan Ryan Theriot.
"There were a lot of runners that we left on and they left on," said catcher Gerald Laird, "but sheesh, we definitely made pitches we needed to keep us in the game."
Laird hit one of two Tigers solo homers off Cubs starter Rich Harden, against whom he was 0-for-7 for his career. From there on, it was all about run production.
Everett's sixth-inning single improved him to 6-for-11 with eight RBIs this season when there's a runner on third and two outs. Curtis Granderson followed by drawing a full-count pass off Aaron Heilman, which Miguel Cabrera repeated in the eighth off Sean Marshall.
The fireworks had just started at that point. They were roaring by the time Rodney took the mound in the ninth. He didn't give up anything nearly as explosive, but after leading off the ninth with a four-pitch walk of Derrek Lee, he drew a fiery mound visit from Leyland.
"I told Rodney, 'Come on, you're better than this,'" Leyland said. "'You're just throwing it and falling off the mound. You're got to drive right to the hitter.'"
Hoffpauir hit a 97-mph Rodney fastball for a single to put the tying run on base before Rodney fanned Bradley. Fox took Granderson deep to right-center to corral his fly ball, then Rodney finished off Fukudome.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.