When Ramon Santiago stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on in the second inning, the Tigers were already staring at a six-run deficit. They were already into their bullpen, they were facing a starting pitcher they had never faced, and with wins in the first two games of the series, they already had a series win locked up.
Two outs, 11 batters, two Santiago hits and eight runs later, Detroit was in front on its way to an exhausting 11-7 win and a sweep of the A's. And none of the players, including Santiago, acted too terribly surprised that they found the momentum to come back.
"Everyone just goes and does it," said center fielder Curtis Granderson, whose three-run homer put the Tigers in double digits and effectively put away the sweep. "No one really had to say anything.
"Usually in those situations, especially a younger group and younger teams, high school teams, college teams, a coach has to say something. Sure enough, all the guys know it's definitely not over. We've been having good at-bats. We just haven't a chance to get ourselves into a rhythm yet. Just pick by pick, get ourselves into a situation where we can close the gap, and then go from there. That's pretty much what happened today."
Maybe it went unsaid, but it didn't go unnoticed.
"When you win the first two from a team and you've got a day game after a night game, and you get behind 6-0 early, that's a pretty good compliment to come back," manager Jim Leyland said. "I told them last night, 'You have to have a little mean streak in you if you want to be good, and I thought [that] came out today."
About the only momentum they didn't have by game's end was the push from Santiago to turn a single into a double in his final two at-bats. Otherwise, he would've hit for the cycle, a remarkable feat for someone who isn't an everyday player and hasn't been known for his offense until recently. But he could settle for four hits, including a go-ahead three-run homer, and three runs scored.
Detroit managed double-digit runs on a day when its 3-4-5 hitters -- Clete Thomas, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez -- combined to go 1-for-12 with no RBIs and one run. Hitters six through nine, by contrast, went 10-for-17 with eight runs scored. Seven of those hits came from the duo of Santiago and Adam Everett that has turned out a surprising offensive punch at shortstop.
Santiago had no hits yet as he stood at the plate in the second inning for his first at-bat. And after taking a first-pitch fastball and fouling off another, he was stuck in an 0-2 hole as Trevor Cahill tried to finish off the inning.
Santiago shrugged off a couple pitches, fouled off a tough offspeed pitch in the dirt and then a high fastball, shrugged off a curveball in the dirt to run the count full, then fouled off two more to stay alive. Finally, Cahill left a fastball up on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, and Santiago slashed it into the gap for an RBI triple.
"I think it was big," Santiago said. "Everybody started to fight every at-bat. When you work a pitcher for 10 pitches, they can be the stronger guy, but they get tired. Sometimes they leave the ball up later. He had a good sinker, so he was getting up a little bit. And that makes a difference with the next guy."
Santiago's strength is making a difference in those at-bats. With a little more power, he said, he's able to make more solid contact and yet maintain his line-drive approach without swinging for the fences, which is what Leyland always frets with him.
"He got some awful big hits," Leyland said, "and that was certainly one of them. We felt if we kept it within six or so, we had a chance."
An inning later, Santiago had a chance to take the lead. He greeted reliever Santiago Casilla with a drive to the right-field seats for a go-ahead, three-run homer, his third homer on the year. It pushed his RBI total to 19, one more than he had all of last season.
Casilla retired seven straight Tigers before Santiago came back up again. His lined a single into right-center that was a little more shallow than his earlier hit. While he thought about trying for two, he stopped himself.
"We're up by only one run," Santiago said, "so I don't have to be stupid on baserunning."
After Everett doubled, Granderson rewarded him by taking Russ Springer deep to right for his team-leading 10th home run of the year.
Santiago's cycle wouldn't be complete -- he singled through the middle in his last at-bat -- but the Tigers' comeback was. And with that, they're back at four games over .500, the same high mark they reached before being swept at Minnesota last week.
"The main thing is to win the game," Santiago said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less