Tigers come back, hold two-game lead
Detroit scores 12 unanswered runs to defeat White Sox
CHICAGO -- It wasn't the largest comeback of the season for the Tigers, but it was the biggest.
Not only was Detroit's five-run deficit gone by the seventh, it seemed like a mathematical glitch after Curtis Granderson singled in the last of a dozen unanswered Tigers runs. Yet the Tigers really did trail entering the seventh, and Freddy Garcia had a quality start going.
"It's a tough game. You have to get 27 outs," Garcia's best friend, Carlos Guillen, said Saturday night after Detroit's 12-5 win over the White Sox.
The end result from all of that was no change in the American League Central standings. The Tigers enter Sunday's series finale with their two-game lead intact over Minnesota and Edwin Jackson pitching in Sunday's series finale, while the Twins face AL Cy Young Award candidate Zack Greinke in Kansas City. Detroit's magic number was reduced to seven.
Still, after all that, pardon the Tigers if Saturday didn't feel like the status quo.
"To climb that mountain tonight, that was outstanding," said Nate Robertson, who had to watch the comeback after his rough start left the Tigers trailing early.
Robertson left with a 5-0 deficit and another runner on base after Carlos Quentin's three-run homer in the fourth inning. As rough as it was, with six hits and three walks over 3 1/3 innings, the damage could've been worse if not for double plays in each of the first three innings en route to five for the game.
The quick exit left Alfredo Figaro, who wasn't even among the September callups until Eddie Bonine went into the rotation, an opportunity to get some work. He took advantage by retiring seven of the eight White Sox hitters he faced, facing the minimum over his 2 2/3 innings.
"Figaro," manager Jim Leyland said, "was the key to the game, in my opinion."
The way Detroit's offense had been going, however, his outing was seemingly trivial. Garcia, whom the Tigers last saw as a teammate in a makeup game at the end of last season, faced the minimum 12 batters through four innings, though he had some hard-hit balls that went for outs.
Another friend of Garcia, Miguel Cabrera, gave the Tigers their first run of the series when he led off the fifth with his 32nd home run of the season. Guillen flew out to the warning track, but that was it for the scoring that inning.
Once Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez had back-to-back two-out hits in the sixth, however, they set up Cabrera to slug them back into the game. He reached a pitch at his shoetops and lined it softly into center to score both runners.
Garcia got out of the inning, but managed only one out among the five batters he faced in the seventh. That would've been survivable if not for the fact that all four of them scored.
"It was a real good comeback against a real good pitcher," Leyland said. "To come back against him, that's pretty good."
They weren't big hits -- a Guillen single to right, a couple of ground balls through the left side from Gerald Laird and Adam Everett and a Granderson liner to left-center -- but the cumulative damage turned the game. The singles from Everett and Granderson drove in runs, the latter to tie the game and finally knock out Garcia. Polanco and Ordonez singled in runs after that off Tony Pena.
"We were hitting the ball hard [earlier and] just couldn't find the holes," Laird said. "Then all of a sudden, things started dropping and guys were getting on base. The ball found some holes. It was big for us at the bottom of the order to get on base and set the table for the big guys up front. Granderson delivered, Polanco delivered. When you see guys starting to hit, it's like they say, hitting's contagious."
Not until Guillen came up again did the White Sox finally retire the side. Detroit sent 10 men to the plate in the seventh off three different Chicago pitchers, showing one reason White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen showed so much patience with Garcia (2-4).
"Our bullpen was short," Ozzie Guillen said. "I think that's the reason Freddy went one inning too long. I got [D.J.] Carrasco down, [Bobby] Jenks down, [Octavio] Dotel down. We tried to give Freddy one inning [to get] through it. Obviously, he couldn't go through that inning. Everything started to be wrong right after that."
How right: The Tigers went 17-for-25 with three walks over their final 28 batters. They had two hits from their first 19 batters before that.
Meanwhile, Figaro (2-1), who had gone back home to the Dominican Republic to prepare for winter ball when the Tigers called, picked up his first win since his Major League debut in June for his trouble.
"Great win," Cabrera said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.