DETROIT (AP) – It has been obvious for months that the Detroit Tigers made one of baseball’s best moves when they signed Victor Martinez as a free agent.
On Friday night, Martinez proved it one more time.
His run-scoring double in the 11th inning gave Detroit a 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Brandon Inge started the inning with a walk off Willie Eyre (2-2), and Miguel Cabrera, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning, hit a one-out single. Rookie Zach Phillips came on to face Martinez and gave up the game-ending double on an 0-2 pitch.
“You’d rather be lucky than good,” Martinez said. “I wasn’t expecting it on 0-2, but he really hung a pitch and I was able to hit it hard. Still, it feels great when you can do something to help your team win a game.”
The Tigers and Texas Rangers, who beat Seattle 5-3 on Friday, remained tied for the second-best record in the American League, with Detroit holding the tiebreaker because of a better head-to-head record.
“This was a good tonic for us and a good win,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We needed to get this one, obviously, because Texas was winning. We wanted it, and we got it.”
Alfredo Simon pitched eight innings for Baltimore, allowing three runs and six hits.
“I felt really strong out there,” Simon said. “I thought I threw a very good game against a great lineup.
Rick Porcello, expected to be the fourth pitcher in Detroit’s postseason rotation, allowed three runs, nine hits and a walk in seven innings.
“I thought Porcello was terrific,” Leyland said. “He really had his sinker working against a good offensive team that has been beating people up.”
Ryan Perry (1-0), who is battling for a roster spot in October, got the win with a scoreless 11th.
“We’re trying to get those guys into pressure situations, because we’re still using everyone and still looking around and sniffing around a little bit to see about our roster,” Leyland said. “So that’s good.”
Detroit tied the game at 3 in the fifth when Jhonny Peralta led off with a double and scored on Ramon Santiago’s second single of the game.
The Tigers threatened in the ninth. Cabrera singled off Jim Johnson with one out. After a groundout moved Cabrera to second, Alex Avila was intentionally walked. Johnson got Peralta on a called third strike to send the game to extra innings.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first on Vladimir Guerrero’s RBI double, but the Tigers came back in the bottom of the inning on Cabrera’s 27th homer deep into the stands in left field.
“I had just thrown a breaking ball for a strike, so I wanted to come inside with a fastball,” Simon said. “I put it right where I wanted it, and he still hit it that far. I don’t know how he even hit the ball, much less hit it like that. I guess that’s why he’s the best hitter in baseball.”
The homer gave Cabrera 100 RBIs, making him the first Tiger since Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito in 1961 to have triple digits in runs, RBIs and walks.
“He’s a star,” Leyland said. “There’s absolutely no question about that. I just don’t want an MVP boxing match between him and (Justin) Verlander in the next couple days.”
Baltimore got two runs in the third. Robert Andino and J.J. Hardy led off the inning with infield singles and moved up on a wild pitch. Nick Markakis tied the game with a sacrifice fly, and Matt Wieters put the Orioles ahead with an RBI single.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)