DETROIT - The sixth inning rolled around similar to so many other sixth innings in the past: The Detroit Tigers, struggling offensively, against a no-name pitcher.
But these circumstances were different. They aren’t struggling as a whole at the plate anymore and have been hitting at home where they’ve had so much success as of late. And this time, they would take advantage of the opponent’s mistakes.
They had to overcome another bullpen blow-up, but the Tigers’ three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning set the tone in a walk-off win over the Chicago White Sox, 7-4, for a series sweep at Comerica Park.
Justin Upton hit a walk-off home run, his 11th of the season, for the win. It was his fifth career walk-off home run.
The Tigers have reached the .500 mark once again and have won four straight games for the first time this season.
Closer Justin Wilson worked his way out of a two-on, nobody out jam in the top of the ninth to get the Tigers to the home half with a chance to win.
In the bottom of the sixth, Justin Upton led off with a single. He quickly advanced to third base on a two-base error by White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who missed a routine pickoff throw. John Hicks – in a terrific nine-pitch at-bat that began with him getting brushed to the ground – followed with a double to centerfield, tying the game.
Then, a sage move by manager Brad Ausmus: With first base open, knowing that Chicago manager Rick Renteria would intentionally walk Victor Martinez, Ausmus pinch-hit him. Renteria did, and Ausmus subbed Andrew Romine.
Hicks would steal third. Pinch-hitter Alex Presley would drive in the run on a hard-hit groundball officially ruled an error. Then Jose Iglesias plated Romine – the free baserunner – on a fielder’s choice.
Alex Wilson coughed up the two-run lead by allowing three doubles in the top of the eighth inning, his second inning of work. After back-to-back RBI doubles, Ausmus hooked Wilson for lefty Daniel Stumpf.
Stumpf allowed a single to put runners on the corners with one out, Shane Greene was summoned and danced out of further damage. Greene has allowed just four of 26 inherited runners to score this season.
Early in the game, the Tigers lost ace righty Justin Velrander to right groin tightness. Verlander pitched two-plus innings, allowing two runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out three.
His pitch count climbed freakishly high early, to 66 pitches after two innings, and he was pulled with nobody out in the third inning after allowing a solo home run to Todd Frazier and walking Avisail Garcia on four pitches.
He was visited on the mound twice by Ausmus and team trainer Kevin Rand. After the first meeting, he continued pumping mid-90 m.p.h. fastballs. After the second, his velocity was noticeably lower.
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