Tigers show resilience, top Cards in 10 innings, winning streak reaches five

Detroit News

St. Louis – Spencer Torkelson had a life-changing moment last year in Tampa – in a manner of speaking.

It was like a revelation. He watched Jonathan Schoop field a ground ball on the right side of the infield and boldly fire a strike to third base, gunning down an unsuspecting runner who thought he had a free ride into the base.

“Like, as a kid growing up, you learn that on a ground ball to the right side of the infield and you’re on second base, you just go to third,” Torkelson said after the Tigers pulled off another improbable, gritty win, 6-5 over the St. Louis Cardinals in 10 innings. “I saw Schoopy do that and I, like, rethought my whole entire life.”

More: BOX SCORE: Tigers 6, Cardinals 5

So there he was Saturday, having quite a day for himself with two clutch RBI singles. The Tigers, who fought uphill the entire day, had scratched across the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning. Nolan Arenado was the free runner at second in the bottom of the inning as reliever Jose Cisnero was trying to get the final three outs.

Left-handed hitter Alec Burleson hit a hard ground ball to Torkelson at first base and, without hesitation, he went into Schoop-mode. He wheeled and fired a strike to third base, nailing Arenado and clearing the way for the Tigers’ fifth straight win.

“When I saw Schoop do that, I thought, ‘I can do that, too,’” Torkelson said. “So every time there’s a runner at second and no outs, I always look at the third baseman and tell him, ‘If it’s hit hard enough, I’m coming to you.’

“It finally came to fruition.”

That confidence is permeating through the Tigers clubhouse right now, while the opposite is happening to the Cardinals, who have lost eight straight and at 10-24 are off to one of their worst starts in recent years.

“We talked about character wins before the game and we’re talking about them now,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “We had to battle back twice. … These guys are grinding and doing everything they can to contribute. They’re really buying in to what we’re doing.”

The Tigers fought back from a three-run deficit (against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who was making his season debut). And then they fought back from a two-run deficit after Arenado hit a two-out, two-strike homer in the fifth.

They squandered a glorious chance to take their first lead of the day in the top of the ninth only to have Andy Ibanez thrown out at the plate on a strong throw by right-fielder Lars Nootbar, completing a 9-2 double-play.

Incidentally, Hinch had no problem with third-base coach Gary Jones’ bold send on that play.

“I want him to go 100 out of 100 times,” Hinch said. “It’s a running catch and a lot of things can happen at the end of that catch. It’s really hard to come up with a two-out base hit (even though Torkelson was coming up). And he made a perfect throw. Obviously, that’s a great player out there.

“But I don’t mind letting the players play and letting the moment happen … I love the send, love the go and as a baseball enthusiast, I love the play.”

The Tigers were undeterred. They just kept scratching.

“We’re never out of it,” Torkelson said. “We feel that way, strongly. We believe in one another and believe in just passing the baton and having good at-bats, grinding the pitchers down and then making them pay for their mistakes.

“We’re doing that really well right now and it feels good.”

Akil Baddoo, who singled, stole a base and scored in the Tigers’ three-run rally in the fifth, ripped an opposite-field, ground-rule double in the top of the 10th to score the winner. But it was Torkelson and Riley Greene who were at the center of the rallies.

Greene, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games, singled in a run in the fifth against Wainwright. He singled and scored on a two-out Torkelson single in the seventh that tied the score 5-5. And it was his double that put the Tigers in position to score in the ninth.

Torkelson, besides his tying knock, also chased Wainwright from the game with an RBI single in the sixth.

“We took that gut-punch in, what was it, the fifth?” Torkelson said, referring to Arenado’s homer that ended starter Spencer Turnbull’s day. “We knew we had 12 outs left. You give us that many outs to get two runs, we have a strong feeling we can get that done.”

Greene also made a sensational catch, crashing into the center-field wall to end the fourth inning, robbing Cardinals’ catcher Andrew Knizner of extra bases.

“He’s in the middle of everything we do,” Hinch said. “He hits in the heart of our order, he brings a ton of energy for us, he plays in the middle of the diamond and is a big-time leader in the outfield. We often turn to him despite his age and inexperience.

“We rely on him quite a bit and days like today show you why.”

The Tigers also had to rely on the front end of the bullpen to get the job done at the end. Late-inning stalwarts Jason Foley and Alex Lange were unavailable (rest). Chasen Shreve, Will Vest, Tyler Holton and Cisnero, though, covered 5.1 innings and didn’t allow a run.

“It was nice that those guys were fresh,” Hinch said. “We’re going to rely on every guy we have down there in different ways. Sometimes it’s going to be a normal rotation and where it’s easy to see who I’m going to use. And there’s going to be other days where it’s going to be like this, with some guys pitching in leverage who have to do the job if we’re going to win the game.”


Twitter: @cmccosky

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