The Detroit Tigers showed another example of their resiliency Sunday.
With two outs, two balls, two strikes and trailing by two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning, Jeimer Candelario demolished a slider from Tampa Bay Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge. The ball carried 421 feet, soaring over the right-field wall to tie the game at seven runs.
It was Candelario’s second home run of the game.
The Tigers capitalized on his efforts in the bottom of the 11th, earning an 8-7 victory over the Rays in the series finale. Robbie Grossman ended the marathon by drawing a bases-loaded, two-out walk off J.P. Feyereisen. He has four walk-off RBIs this season.
Before the Tigers (68-76) walked it off, Kyle Funkhouser pitched a scoreless top of the 11th. Walks from Victor Reyes and Akil Baddoo juiced the bases against Feyereisen. (Niko Goodrum started out at second as the free runner in extra innings.)
And with two outs, Grossman drew a walk for the win.
The Tigers fell behind by two runs in the 10th inning because of Yandy Diaz’s RBI double off lefty reliever Gregory Soto. He scored Ji-Man Choi — the Rays’ free runner — for a 6-5 lead. Kevin Kiermaier’s groundout plated Nelson Cruz, whom Tigers manager AJ Hinch had intentionally walked, to make it 7-5 Rays.
The Tigers carried a one-run lead from the fourth inning until the eighth. They jumped ahead 2-1 in the fourth on a solo home run from Candelario, who has 14 home runs and 40 doubles over 134 games this season.
Hinch had his high-leverage relievers well-rested and lined up perfectly: Michael Fulmer in the seventh inning, Jose Cisnero in the eighth and Soto — the de facto closer — in the ninth.
But the Rays spoiled Hinch’s plan by chasing Cisnero in the eighth.
The bullpen was positioned to dominate behind three scoreless innings from left-handed starter Tarik Skubal and three innings of one-run ball from righty reliever Jose Urena. Protecting a one-run lead, Fulmer completed a scoreless seventh.
Cisnero faced four batters, all of which reached safely. Austin Meadows started with a leadoff single and scored on Phillips’ go-ahead two-run home run over the left-center wall.
After Phillips put the Rays up 3-2, the next two batters reached against Cisnero. Having seen enough, Hinch replaced him with Alex Lange. A double from Diaz — deflected by Candelario at third base — pushed home two more runs for Tampa Bay’s 5-2 margin.
All four runs were charged to Cisnero.
Against Rays reliever David Robertson in the eighth, the Tigers posted three consecutive singles — Akil Baddoo, Jonathan Schoop and Grossman — to load the bases for Miguel Cabrera. He singled up the middle, driving in two runs and cutting the Tigers’ deficit to 5-4.
Cabrera, replaced by Derek Hill on the bases, is 25 hits away from No. 3,000.
Heads-up running from Hill and a wise decision from third base coach Ramon Santiago evened the score at five. Harold Castro’s fly ball to deep right should have simply advanced Hill to third base, but Brett Phillips made a throwing error.
Phillips’ throw to the cutoff man traveled high, bouncing off leaping shortstop Taylor Walls’ glove. When second baseman Joey Wendle tried to clean up the mess, he fumbled the ball. There was no throw to be made, so Hill turned on his speed and crossed home plate with a head-first slide.
Skubal shoves with restrictions
Skubal made MLB history by becoming the first rookie with 22 consecutive outings with at least four strikeouts. Skubal struck out six batters over his three innings — increasing his season-long total to 160 punchouts over 139 innings.
Skubal was previously tied with Shane McClanahan (2021) and Jake Odorizzi (2014) for the rookie record of 21 outings. His 22 straight is the longest streak for any Tigers pitcher since Justin Verlander’s 28-game stretch from July 29, 2015, to April 5, 2016.
Working under innings restrictions, Skubal knew he would only pitch three innings against the Rays. So the 24-year-old made the most of his opportunity by posting three scoreless innings. He allowed just one hit and one walk.
Determined to set the tone for his performance early, Skubal worked back from down 2-0 in the count against Rays leadoff hitter Randy Arozarena. He threw strikes with his next three pitches — four-seam fastball, slider and two-seam fastball — to produce a swinging strikeout.
After Skubal won a 10-pitch battle with Manuel Margot, the ever-dangerous Cruz stepped to the plate. But Skubal painted a 98 mph four-seamer on the outside edge, catching Cruz looking for his second strikeout.
Skubal got through the first two innings with 35 pitches, throwing 19 in the first and 16 in the second. He then completed the third inning with 14 pitches. Arozarena’s two-out single was the only hit off Skubal. The other three batters in the third were struck out: Francisco Meija (96 mph fastball), Phillips (89 mph slider) and Margot (96 mph two-seamer).
Skubal tossed 34 of 49 pitches for strikes.
Urena tosses three innings
The Tigers backed Skubal with a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
The scoring opportunity began with one out, as Dustin Garneau’s bloop double bounced off a diving Margot’s glove in right field. A wild pitch advanced him to third base, just before Victor Reyes sprayed a single into right for a one-run advantage.
Schoop’s single and Grossman’s walk — both with two outs — loaded the bases for Cabrera, but he grounded out to shortstop.
Following Skubal’s three innings, Urena handled the next three frames. On the fifth pitch he threw, Cruz turned on an inside fastball and belted his 31st home run — a solo blast to left field — to tie the game, 1-1, in the fourth.
After that, Urena didn’t flinch.
He retired the next five batters but walked Phillips, who stole second base, to give Arozarena, an American League Rookie of the Year frontrunner, a chance to strike with two outs. Urena, though, struck him out with a 94 mph sinker to escape the jam.
And when Margot singled off Urena’s slider to open the sixth, Garneau threw him out at second base trying to steal for the first out. Urena retired Cruz and Diaz to complete his three-inning relief appearance.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.