Tigers hang on to down Jays

Tigers hang on to down Jays

TORONTO -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland joked that he was taking Zach Miner to the track Saturday night after his first Major League win. But Saturday's 5-3 victory was more about the home stretch than the start.

As Roman Colon warmed up before the bottom of the eighth, the Rogers Centre video board showed highlights of Friday's eight-run Toronto eighth off three different Tigers relievers, drawing a loud ovation from many of the 27,021 in attendance. The 5-2 score entering the eighth was the same each day.

Colon said he tuned it out of his mind. Now, so can Todd Jones, who said he couldn't get to sleep until 4:30 Saturday morning after Friday's blown save.

"I slept like a baby," he said. "I woke up every two hours crying."

Jones wanted to get another save situation as soon as he could, and Leyland wanted to give it to him. It was up to the rest of the Tigers to get them there.

Miner (1-1) looked little like the tentative right-hander who often tried to pitch around the Red Sox last Sunday at Comerica Park in his big-league debut. Mixing his fastball and curveball to set up his changeup, he was more aggressive against one of the Majors' best-hitting lineups in his second Major League start.

Lyle Overbay's two-run homer in the fourth inning accounted for the only damage off Miner in six innings of work. It marked the first time that the Tigers have won in Mike Maroth's rotation spot in three tries since Maroth went on the disabled list for surgery to remove bone chips.

"Baseball's a funny game," Miner (1-1) said. "Teams can score 10 runs one game and get no-hit the next. You definitely respect those guys, but it's something that you're sitting there shaking in your boots. I knew if we made our pitches today, we would win."

Blue Jays starter Ted Lilly also pitched well, scattering two hits in seven innings of work. Both hits, however, were big home runs.

Lilly (5-7), facing the Tigers for the first time in two years, gave up back-to-back walks with one out in the second inning before Brandon Inge hit his 13th home run of the season. Lilly retired the next five hitters he faced, but third baseman Shea Hillenbrand's fielding error put Magglio Ordonez on base leading off the fifth and brought up Marcus Thames, whose 12th homer on the year traveled an estimated 402 feet to left-center field.

The next 16 Tigers hitters went down in order against Lilly, who struck out a season-high 12 over 8 2/3 innings. Ordonez's ninth-inning double was Detroit's only other hit.

"It was a very strange win," Inge said. "For a guy to go out there and give up three hits, strike out 12 batters and lose the ballgame, it's gotta be frustrating."

Once Miner was finished after six, he went back to the clubhouse and did his arm exercises before returning to the dugout. He was more nervous sitting there than he was on the mound, he said, because he had no control over what happened.

Few of Detroit's relievers did on Friday night, either. With Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney both resting, it was a mystery who would bridge the gap between Miner and Jones Saturday.

"Like I said, somebody else was going to have to get some big outs," Leyland said, "and Colon did that."

It was one of Colon's biggest outings since he became a Tiger in the Kyle Farnsworth trade last July. He auditioned as a starter this spring and again two weeks ago, and both times was unable to win a rotation spot. He has said that he pitches differently as a reliever as a starter, and it showed Saturday.

"As a long reliever, you're not going to go out there and be doing everything in a hurry. You have to calm yourself down," Colon said. "When you come in as a reliever, you have to come in throwing strikes and make things happen."

Like Miner before him, Colon was aggressive, needing five pitches for his first two outs before walking Edgardo Alfonzo on a full count. He quickly ended the inning by striking out Alex Rios on three pitches, the last two of them sharp sliders.

Once the eighth inning arrived, Colon geared up his fastball back to the mid-90s. He overpowered the first two hitters for outs before Troy Glaus hit a hanging slider to left for a solo homer and a two-run lead.

Leyland stuck with Colon, who fired back with a 94-mph fastball to send down Overbay swinging to end the eighth.

"It feels great," Colon said. "I know I need to show my manager that he can trust me in any situation, not just as a long reliever. I can be in any kind of situation because I have some experience. I want to be here for the team."

Jones has long since garnered his manager's trust, though he doesn't want to think like that. His ninth inning was about showing something to the team as a whole.

"I guess I'm a glutton for punishment," Jones said. "It's important that I show to my teammates that I'm not rattled, because we're a better team if I'm in the mix and pitching and pitching well. It was good for me to get back out there for sure."

With little sleep, even less rest and a slight mechanical adjustment from pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, Jones retired Hillenbrand and Bengie Molina. Then the drama began.

Aaron Hill hit a line drive that fell just in front of Curtis Granderson in center field. Pinch-hitter Gregg Zaun worked his way to a seven-pitch walk, putting the potential go-ahead run on base and bringing up the dangerous Rios again.

Like Colon two innings earlier, Jones went after him with a slider. Rios grounded into a fielder's choice.

"It was difficult today," Jones said. "I know what everybody's thinking. I'm trying not to think about it. I'm trying to make pitches. You just have to block everything out. That's what closing's all about."

Miner got a game ball and a dousing of shaving cream from Kenny Rogers as a reward. Colon got a boost of confidence. Jones got to sleep and eat easy again.

"All plastic spoons," he joked of his Friday night meal.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.