By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Powerful as it is, the Detroit Tigers offense sometimes hits the skids. It might blow the doors off an opposing defense, or it might suffer through lengthy scoring droughts.
The latter had been the case through the first three games of the American League Division Series against Oakland, and it looked like Game 4 would be more of the same. If it had been, the Tigers would have been eliminated.
Through the fourth inning Tuesday, the A’s had shut out Detroit in 29 of the last 31 frames. The Tigers trailed 3-0 halfway, and no offense seemed forthcoming. The Tigers had trouble.
Then Prince Fielder lashed a single for the Tigers’ first hit Tuesday. Victor Martinez, who had a hard time hitting in the first half of the season but emerged with a vengeance in the later months of the season, followed with another single. None other than Jhonny Peralta, just a few weeks removed from finishing a 50-game suspension, slammed a three-run homer, tying the game.
“We put that inning together and Jhonny came up big,” Martinez said. “That’s been him all season long for us. He’s just been great for us, swinging the bat good, and I think he just showed it once again tonight.”
Unlike their other games this series, however, the Tigers did not stop scoring after one feverish inning. They scored two more in the seventh and three more in the eighth. Once again, Martinez proved an integral part of the process, blasting a solo homer when he led off the seventh, tying up the game.
“He’s a tough guy,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s been hitting right-handed because we have been seeing the right-handed pitching, and we turned him around, and he ends up hitting it out of the park. He’s a tough out. He can grind it with the best of them. He gets hits off good pitchers with two strikes in RBI situations.
“I think he is one of the better hitters in the league,” Leyland added.
Martinez’s contributions might have made the biggest splash, but the Tigers got help from almost every spot. Peralta hit the earlier homer, Fielder had the single that started it all, second baseman Omar Infante knocked in the insurance runs late, and several others in the lineup walked.
The scoring in the late innings demonstrated the determination of the Tigers as they tried to keep their season alive against an A’s bullpen that had not given up even a single run in the past nine games.
“We kept battling away,” Leyland said. “Omar Infante got a huge hit. Alex got a huge walk. They walked Alex, which was the kiss of death. They had a left-hander on a left-hander, and that set up the rest of the inning.
“This is a good series,” Leyland added. “I’m sure the commissioner is happy it’s going five, so we’ll see what happens.”
It bodes well for the Tigers that they made their comeback and even piled on a few extra runs without much production from injured superstar Miguel Cabrera. The probable American League MVP went one for four with a single in the game. The Tigers need him, but they also need to be able to score runs without him. Tuesday the team did just that.
“We all know Miguel by himself, he won’t win every game,” Martinez said. “We need everybody to step up, and like I always say, you have to give credit to those who deserve credit. [The A’s] have been pitching great to us, and we have just been able to get that big hit, and tonight we came to this game with our back against the wall, and we came up big.”
Now all the Tigers have to do is do it again – only this time, they have to do it in Oakland.