By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Not every day does a major league baseball team destroy its opponent by a score of 14-5 after trailing 5-0 in the first inning. Against the odds, the Detroit Tigers did exactly that Tuesday night.
The likelihood of such a dramatic and overwhelming comeback would seem especially small when facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, a 51-win team so renowned for its starting pitching that Hyun-Jin Ryu, with an ERA of 3.08, would be considered one of the more pedestrian hurlers on the staff.
Detroit received much of its offense from unexpected sources, as the hitters in the bottom of the order – six through nine – combined for a .536 batting average and seven runs batted in.
“Those guys today, they’re the MVPs of the day,” right fielder Torii Hunter said. “The catfish, bottom-feeders we call them, catfish got it done today. They were aggressive at the plate. They were patient at the plate. Nick Castellanos, Avila and Suarez and Rajai, these guys did a great job today. I have to tip my cap to them because if it wasn’t for those guys, we probably wouldn’t have scored all those runs – scored some runs, not all of them.”
Third baseman Nick Castellanos batted sixth and finished the day 3 for 5 with a pair of singles and a double. Batting seventh, catcher Alex Avila went 1 for 3 with a pair of walks. Shortstop Eugenio Suarez batted eighth and went 2 for 4 with a sacrifice. Rajai Davis hit ninth and ended up 3 for 4 with a sacrifice fly.
Together, the group went 9 for 16.
Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander gave up five runs in the top of the first inning, so Detroit started in a considerable hole. The turnaround began in the second inning when Hunter, hitting fifth, tested the arm of stellar Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig and – upon review – was called safe at second base. Castellanos, Avila, Suarez and Davis each followed up with singles. Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez did likewise, and by the end of the second inning, the Tigers had tied the game.
The bottom of the order delivered again in the third inning, this time to the tune of a leadoff double by Castellanos, a walk by Avila, a sacrifice by Suarez and a single by Davis. In the fourth inning, that six-through-nine group continued the momentum that Cabrera started with a single. Castellanos singled, Avila walked again, Suarez singled and Davis hit a sacrifice fly.
Castellanos had a .263 batting average entering the game. Avila’s was .228, Suarez’s was .272, Davis’ was .278.
“Miguel, J.D. and Victor can’t do it all the time,” Avila said, referencing two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera, surging slugger J.D. Martinez and five-time All-Star Victor Martinez, all of whom have batting averages of .300 or better. “Everybody’s got to contribute at some point and just try to make it tough on the pitcher.”
The Tigers certainly made the Dodgers pitchers uncomfortable Tuesday night, forcing Los Angeles to bring in a fourth pitcher before the end of the fifth inning. With the win, Detroit broke a three-game losing streak, pushing its overall record to 49-37.