Good vibrations: Báez, Cabrera clutch, Tigers celebrate a second walk-off win

Detroit News

Detroit – They were booing Javier Báez when he took a called third strike in the first inning. They booed louder when he chased a pitch way outside the zone for another strikeout in the fifth.

But they were on their feet cheering wildly in the eighth inning after Báez won an incredible 12-pitch battle with reliever John Brebbia. His line-drive double to the wall in left field plated two runs in a three-run rally that tied the score 6-6.

“It was nice to see that,” said Miguel Cabrera, who bounced a walk-off single through a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Tigers another dramatic win, 7-6 over the San Francisco Giants. “Nice to see him battle for the whole at-bat. I think that at-bat changed the whole game. He is the MVP of the game.”

It was the Tigers’ second straight walk-off celebration (Nick Maton hit a walk-off, three-run homer in the 11th inning Friday). And it was the first pinch-hit, walk-off single in Cabrera’s Hall of Fame-worthy career. He was properly mobbed and pelted with pepper, powder and assorted liquids between first and second base.

“Feels nice,” Cabrera said. “We won the series. … It’s nice to win no matter if it’s nine innings, 10 innings or 11 innings. It’s nice to go out there and win the game.”

Báez’s at-bat in the eighth inning, though, as Cabrera said, was pivotal.

“Incredible at-bat,” said Tigers manager AJ Hinch, who benched Baez during the game Thursday night in Toronto for mental lapses on the bases. “He’s in a really good place because he’s locked in and doing some fun things. He’s not going to be perfect and we don’t expect him to be perfect. But we expect him to lock in and help us.

“And, man, has he played well the last two days.”

Báez, who also is 4 for 8 with two walks in this series, fell into an 0-2 hole against Brebbia, a slider specialist, the kind that has given him fits over his career. But he dug in. He fouled off six pitches and took a couple of close pitches on the outer edge.

Finally, on the 12th pitch, Brebbia left a slider over the inside part of the plate and Báez smoked it directly over the head of left fielder Blake Sabol. Nick Maton and Riley Greene scored and then Báez, after smartly tagging on a fly ball to right, scored the tying run on a single by Spencer Torkelson.

“It’s not always going to go his way,” Hinch said. “He’s not always going to swing at every strike and take every ball, just like any big-league player. But he can be electrifying at any given moment.”

Yes, Báez heard the boos after his second strikeout. No, it did not faze him.

“It feels good when I can do that for myself,” he said. “I know who I am and I know what I can do. They can say stuff out there that I can’t control. That’s them. It’s easy to go on social media and crush on me or other players. It’s not easy to do that here.

“It is what it is. I know who I am and I know what I can do. I’m going to keep being me and hopefully keep playing better.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 7, Giants 6, 11 innings

As for the benching, Báez said, “I just have to be more in the game. That was said at that moment. I know what I can do here. I’m just going to keep playing hard.”

It’s three straight wins now for the Tigers, but this one doesn’t happen without some heroic work from the Tigers’ bullpen. Right-hander Michael Lorenzen, making his Tigers’ debut, gave up two-run home runs to Sabol and J.D. Davis and left the Tigers in a 6-1 hole after four innings.

“I’ll take credit for putting us in a hole early to prove that we’re able to come back,” Lorenzen said with a smile. “Being a vet player, you know what your team needs and that’s what they needed today.”

Joking aside, Lorenzen didn’t pitch as poorly as the stat line looks. He struck out six and induced a lot of soft contact. The 14 balls put in play against him had an exit velocity of 85.6 mph.

“He pitched better as the game went on,” Hinch said. “I don’t think he was particularly bad, but the conditioning part, it was important for him to get through four innings. And he threw well in the fourth. Hopefully he’s going to carry that into the next start.”

From there, though, it was lights out for the Giants – seven scoreless innings by Tigers relievers. It started with lefty Tyler Holton, just called up from Toledo Saturday morning. He allowed one hit in three innings.

“Just trying to put up zeros,” he said. “We have an offense here that can come back, as we just saw. You just have to give the team a chance to come back and show what they can do. I just wanted to put up zeros and throw quick innings and get them back in the dugout and let them do their thing.”

From there, Trey Wingenter, rebounding from a nightmarish ninth inning in Toronto, Alex Lange, Jason Foley and Chasen Shreve kept the Giants off the board. Foley punched out a pair to strand the free runner in the 10th. Shreve did the same in the 11th, inducing two infield popups and a ground ball.

“It was an extraordinary effort by all of them,” Hinch said.

Kerry Carpenter started the chip-away process against Giants’ starter Anthony DeSclafani, hitting a laser shot into the baby shrubs atop the wall in right field in second inning. It was his second homer in four games.

They got two more in the fifth and left two more on the bases. Zach McKinstry, who had made a sterling defensive play at third base in the top of the fifth, doubled into the right field corner scoring Akil Baddoo from first.

The Giants’ four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop then made back-to-back errors on balls hit by Eric Haase and Matt Vierling. But the Tigers didn’t take full advantage of that shocking development.

The last time Crawford made back-to-back errors in a game was July 7, 2014. Those were throwing errors.

Meanwhile, from the sixth inning on, Cabrera was down below taking swings in the cage, making sure he was ready.

“When you are on the bench, you’ve got to be ready for anything,” he said. “I was looking at the TV to see if they were going to bring in a left-handed pitcher. When they did (lefty Taylor Rogers), finally we get to do our job.”

He did it well. Career hit No. 3,095 was a winner.

“Pretty exciting,” Hinch said. “And another one with a wide range of emotions. But, man, when you hang in there and give yourself a chance, and chip and chip away, and get a couple of big at-bats — and then a big hit at the end by a pretty fun guy, it’s pretty nice.”

Twitter@cmccosky

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