The unthinkable happened Thursday night at Tropicana Field: The Tigers erased a five-run deficit with six singles and a bases-loaded walk before Cameron Maybin's bases-clearing double sealed a 10-7 win over the Rays.
The Tigers became the second team this season to overcome a deficit of five or more runs to win in the ninth inning. The Royals did it to the White Sox on May 28 in Kansas City, scoring seven runs to win 8-7.
"You're not really thinking about trying to rally," Maybin said. "You're just thinking about doing the job and trying to pass the baton. Everybody went up there giving good at-bats, quality at-bats, not trying to do too much. Fortunately enough, we continued to fight, never quit. That's what it's about."
According to STATS, the Tigers' win was their seventh in the last 100 years when trailing by five runs or more entering the ninth and first since Sept. 21, 2013, against the White Sox.
The last time the Rays blew a lead of five or more runs in the ninth inning was May 25, 2009, against the Indians. They started the game up 10-0 and still led by six entering the ninth. The Indians scored seven runs to win.
Rarely, however, do such rallies come together without the big hit, whether it's a home run or a multirun hit.
The Rays appeared to have the game salted away, as Matt Andriese had tossed three scoreless innings of relief and had thrown just 27 pitches, but manager Kevin Cash opted to start with Ryan Garton since the Rays had built a five-run lead.
The Tigers greeted Garton with four straight hits to cut the lead to 7-3. Erasmo Ramirez took over with the bases loaded and no outs to face Justin Upton.
Upton promptly kept the rally going with an RBI single to center field. Steven Moya hit a sacrifice fly and Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with an RBI single. Ramirez walked Ian Kinsler to force home the tying run in advance of Maybin's three-run double that completed the Tigers' eight-run outburst.
"They just pieced together a bunch of hits," Cash said. "They did it against Ryan and they did it against Erasmo. We always talk about how hitting is contagious. That was one contagious inning for them."
Ramirez took the loss after allowing four runs on three hits in one-third of an inning. Anibal Sanchez picked up the win and Francisco Rodriguez claimed the save in Detroit's third straight win.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Maybin makes them pay: The Tigers' ninth-inning rally consisted of singles, walks and a sacrifice fly until Maybin's second time up. His gapper to left-center got past Corey Dickerson and rolled all the way to the wall, clearing the bases for not only the go-ahead run but two insurance tallies to go with it. It was a different approach from the on-base mode that has helped Maybin thrive this season.
"You have to stay aggressive right there," Maybin said. "It's easy to fall into that mode when you see a guy struggling, but that part of the game, you always have to stay ready to hit. My approach changes a little bit, looking for something you can get the head out and hopefully get to the outfield as opposed to letting it travel like I usually do. I was able to do the job, man. It was a fun way to win a game."
Andriese shines: Andriese returned to the bullpen after making a start in Baltimore on Saturday. He had not taken the mound since, so Cash allowed the right-hander to put the bullpen on his shoulders. Andriese took over for Jake Odorizzi with no outs in the sixth and proceeded to pitch three innings, allowing just one hit, but Cash wasn't going to let him pitch the ninth.
"Given his recent workload and also when you separate the game to five runs -- a five-run lead, we're capable of having pitchers that need to go out there and get the job done for us," said Cash.
Romine ends it:Andrew Romine entered the game as a pinch-runner for Saltalamacchia in the ninth and stole second base to erase a potential double-play situation. As a defensive replacement at third base in the bottom of the inning, his slick grab of Brandon Guyer's sharp grounder started a game-ending double play.
Looks like a double in the box score: The Rays loaded the bases with two outs in the third when Nick Franklin was sent to the plate to pinch-hit for Desmond Jennings, who exited with a tight left hamstring. Franklin fell behind 0-2 to Jordan Zimmermann before blooping a ball to shallow left field. The ball dropped and then took an odd bounce to avoid Upton in left field. Three runs scored on the hit, including Corey Dickerson, who ran through third-base coach Charlie Montoyo's stop sign and slid safely across the plate. Franklin has collected nine RBIs during the current homestand.
QUOTABLE "Just awful work from me. Didn't do what I was supposed to do." -- Ramirez, after being asked to put into words what happened in the ninth
"You never feel that we're gonna win the game or we're gonna tie the game until you actually do. When Cam came through with that double, that's when we could all exhale a little bit." --Kinsler
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS According to STATS, until Thursday's wild game, teams that entered the ninth inning down five runs or more had rallied to win just three times in 2,782 chances over the last five seasons.
Evan Longoria continues to look rejuvenated, collecting two doubles, which gives him 41 extra-base hits on the season, while going 3-for-4 to raise his average to .284.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Michael Fulmer (7-2, 2.40 ERA) returns to the rotation for his first start since June 22, facing off against Drew Smyly for the second time in six weeks. Fulmer began his dominant stretch by outpitching Smyly on May 21 at Comerica Park, tossing seven innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts.
Rays: Smyly (2-8, 5.32 ERA) makes his 16th start. He's been scuffling in June at 0-1 with a 6.85 ERA in four starts. On Sunday against the Orioles, he allowed eight runs in five innings.