Detroit — It really doesn’t matter how you win. There’s no deductions or asterisks for blown leads, no bonus points for style and comfort.
“We played good enough to win this game,” Robbie Grossman said. “I did not want to go home on the other side of this.”
Grossman made the Tigers’ collapse in the eighth and ninth innings a mute point Tuesday, ripping a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Tigers an 8-7 win over the reeling Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park.
“We played well tonight,” manager AJ Hinch said. “I know it doesn’t feel that way because the game got really close there. But I was proud of our effort.”
The Tigers were up 7-0 going into the top of the eighth inning against a Royals team that had lost eight straight. And in a blink of an eye, and two mighty swings of Jorge Soler’s bat, they came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied.
Soler knocked in six runs with two swings. He hit a three-run home run off reliever Joe Jimenez in the eighth. Jimenez, who has walked nine of the 15 batters he’s faced this season, set the table with a pair of walks.
Soler then hit a bases-clearing, three-run double off Jose Cisnero in the ninth, capping a four-run rally that tied the game.
“At that point, I just wanted that ball to stay in the park,” Hinch said. “That’s one of the biggest, strongest men in the game. And when it does stay in the park, we’re still in the fight.”
With one run in, Cisnero struck out Carlos Santana with two on and one out. Then he got back-up catcher Sebastian Rivero to hit a ground ball to short that should have ended the game. But Niko Goodrum couldn’t field it cleanly and the bases were loaded for Soler.
He hit the first pitch to deep center field. Rookie Akil Baddoo tracked it and seemed to run it down on the warning track. But the ball came out of his glove as he made contact with the wall.
All three runs scored.
“When I went out to the mound and put (Gregory) Soto in, you know, we get the last out and we still have a chance to win this game,” Hinch said. “You have to keep the positive energy going.”
Goodrum was hit by pitch from reliever Scott Barlow to lead off the bottom of the ninth. With one out he stole second and was there with two outs when Grossman came to the plate.
Grossman had already knocked in four runs at that point with a three-run triple and a sacrifice fly. Barlow got ahead of him 1-2 with a slider and a couple of curveballs.
“I saw him shake (off the catcher) on the fourth pitch,” Grossman said. “I knew the heater was coming at some point. I had it in the back of my mind and it showed up.”
Barlow threw a 95-mph four-seamer and Grossman pulled it through the over-shifted defense. It was his second career walk-off and first with the Tigers.
“I put a decent enough swing on it to get it through,” he said. “I’m just glad it did because we played good enough to win.”
The Tigers had parlayed a string of softly-struck singles and a pair of walks into a four-run fourth inning that chased starter Brady Singer, and then got a three-run triple by Grossman in the fifth to build the 7-0 lead.
Which seemed like more than enough cushion, especially the way Matthew Boyd pitched.
Boyd, who hadn’t made a start in 11 days working through left knee tendinitis, pitched six scoreless innings. He allowed just four hits and only two runners to advance into scoring position. He struck out five.
“It’s a win,” Boyd said. “The ninth didn’t happen like we wanted it to, but then it did — we came out on top and walked it off. It happens. Games like these are going to happen. We’ll use it to get better, both individually and collectively. But our fight never goes away.”
It was his fifth quality start out of seven, and he’s allowed two runs or less in six of them. His ERA is 1.94. And, impressively, Boyd, who has given up more home runs than any pitcher in the American League the last two years, has not yielded a single homer in 41.2 innings. He’s faced 162 batters and kept them all in the yard.
“We watch Matt Boyd just continue to evolve and trust his stuff at critical times and not do it the same way every time,” Hinch said. “He mixes his pitches, he gets ahead, gets into leverage and he’s got a lot of weapons.
“It’s not that it’s opened his eyes, but it’s opened his repertoire by pitching ahead so often.”
The Tigers finished the game with one healthy catcher.
Already without starting catcher Wilson Ramos (lumbar strain), Grayson Greiner was pulled out of the game after the top of the fifth inning with a left hamstring strain. Jake Rogers finished the game.
“Initially he thought it was a cramp,” Hinch said. “He reported it and we checked it out and as we were evaluating it he was still very uncomfortable. So I took him out. I’m not optimistic he’s going to avoid the injured list. It’s really hard at that position, especially with a lower extremity injury.
“I don’t think it’s that bad, but bad enough for us to consider a roster move.”
Ramos is on target to come off the injured list on Monday. Eric Haase was removed from the game in Toledo and could be called up Wedndesday.