Once again, the Tigers pounced early on the White Sox, only to see Chicago tie the game and send it into later innings. Again, the White Sox seemed to come up with the big hit late. This time, however, the Tigers answered.
They're still not hitting well, but on Sunday, they hit enough. Down to their last out, Marcus Thames hit a game-tying two-run homer in the ninth before Placido Polanco's RBI single in the 12th sent Detroit to a 6-5 win at Comerica Park.
With that, they went west without heading further south, stopping a three-game losing streak before they hit the road.
"It was good for us to get a win before we get out of here," Thames said before the Tigers' team plane departed for California and a two-game series against the Angels. "You don't want to go on a long flight after getting swept, so it was a big win for us. Hopefully, we can build off of that and take it to Anaheim."
So far, the late-inning nail-biters have been following them around. Sunday marked the fourth time already this season that the Tigers have won after trailing in the ninth. Six of their 10 wins have come in one-run games, and they've taken six games into extra innings. It was the solace manager Jim Leyland was taking out of their recent skid and out of a .234 batting average that ranked 11th in the American League entering Sunday.
"We haven't hit. We all know that," Leyland said. "But at the same time, we're 10-8, and we also had the lead in every game that we just lost [during the streak]. ... As bad as we're hitting, we're still in every game and we had leads in all of them."
The latest one was looking all too much like Saturday.
The Tigers put up a three-run lead before Chicago starter Jon Garland retired a batter. He recovered to retire 19 in a row, topping Jose Contreras' streak of 17 consecutive Tigers retired Saturday, and allowed his hitters to tie the game before Joe Crede's two-run homer off Aquilino Lopez in the eighth inning put Detroit on the brink of being swept in the three-game series.
David Aardsma replaced Garland for the ninth and retired the first two batters he faced. Carlos Guillen's single to center extended the game for Thames, who found the fastball he wanted on a 1-1 delivery.
"I hit it good," Thames said. "I can't control what happens once he gets out there -- if the wind knocks it down or not. I know I hit it hard."
Most of his teammates haven't felt much control over when and what they've hit lately, either. Thames was 2-for-16 on the season entering that at-bat. He had hit into a double play that helped Garland escape from his first-inning woes, then struck out in his next two at-bats.
But he had company. Brandon Inge was in an 0-for-9 slump and was 1-for-16 in the week-long homestand before he doubled in the 10th. Sean Casey was 0-for-18 before singling in the seventh and again in the ninth following Thames' homer. Gary Sheffield had the day off with an 0-for-12 slump on his record.
The one guy on the team who has hit well all season thus far is Polanco, and the White Sox treated him as such. After Inge's 10th-inning double, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen -- who called Polanco one of the best hitters in the game earlier this weekend -- intentionally walked him with first base open and one out, preferring to pitch to Omar Infante and Magglio Ordonez. Had first base been open in the 12th, he might've done it again.
Nick Masset (1-1) walked Ivan Rodriguez on four pitches leading off the bottom of the 12th before Inge bunted him over to second. Ozzie Guillen brought in lefty Boone Logan to face Curtis Granderson, but Leyland countered by pinch-hitting with Craig Monroe.
Had the game continued, Leyland would've used Monroe in center field. Infante, whom Leyland uses as the backup in center, was stuck at DH. Leyland was willing to make the shifts for a chance to spark the offense.
"I think the left-hander would've come in and pitched to Granderson and then walked Polanco," Leyland said, "so that's why we did it the way we did it."
Logan walked Monroe on four pitches and brought up Polanco, who pulled a 1-1 offering and lined it just over Crede at third base. Rodriguez trotted home from second.
"What I told myself," Polanco said, "is just to try to relax, put a good swing on the ball, make a good strike and whatever happens, happens."
Polanco finished the series batting 5-for-14. He hit 12-for-29 over the homestand with at least one hit in all six games and at least two hits in five of them. Asked how long he can keep this up, he joked, "Hopefully, the rest of my career."
Not likely, but then, it's just as improbable for so many other Tigers to keep struggling. Once again, their pitching gave them a chance to win it, with Wilfredo Ledezma following Justin Verlander's latest strong outing with three innings of scoreless relief. Jason Grilli (1-1) retired the side in order in the 12th for the win.
"You've got a West Coast trip. You've got to get on a plane," Inge said. "If you would lose a ballgame [like this] and get swept, that's not a fun trip to go over there. It takes all the momentum out. Coming back and finally winning one finally felt like things went our way.
"We're winning some games by playing some pretty bad baseball -- bottom line. We haven't been hitting the ball well, haven't been playing very well, and we're still winning ballgames. It's going to be fun once we all start clicking here."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less