The Tigers scored two runs with two out against flamethrowing Texas closer Neftali Feliz to tie the game at 4. Rookie center fielder Austin Jackson beat out a grounder in the hole at shortstop for an infield single. Johnny Damon fell behind, 0-2, in the count before blooping a double into right field.
That brought up Magglio Ordonez, who came into the series batting .382 lifetime at Rangers Ballpark. Against one of the nastiest pitchers he's probably faced in Texas, Ordonez took the correct approach against the right-handed Feliz's 100-mph fastball, going the other way and lining a single into right field to score Jackson and Damon.
"That's why he's batting third in the lineup," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "That's why he's been around that long. He's a tremendous hitter."
The game was tied for about 10 minutes. Ni, who got two big outs in the eighth inning, walked Rangers rookie Justin Smoak, making his Major League debut, to start the bottom of the ninth. Texas catcher Matt Treanor then laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving pinch-runner Joaquin Arias to second base. Ni followed that by intentionally walking pinch-hitter Ryan Garko.
The Rangers went to their bench again, calling upon their best hitter early in the season, Nelson Cruz. Tigers manager Jim Leyland countered with Perry, who walked Cruz on five pitches to load the bases.
Perry then got ahead in the count on Andrus with two strikes. But Perry left a pitch up and Andrus lined it into center field to end the game.
"We battled and got it down to the last out," Tigers starter Max Scherzer said.
The Tigers have settled into a stretch where they'll likely play three rookies every day, though Leyland said before the game that his lineup will be versatile, meaning it will change some.
Rookies have their ups and downs during a season and even a game -- as Leyland happened to point out before Friday's game -- and that happened Friday.
Designated hitter Brennan Boesch, making his Major League debut, had two hits, including a ringing double in his first at-bat. He said he didn't get it all, but at first it felt like it might leave the park.
"I was hoping it would get out," Boesch said. "It definitely felt good to get that first hit out of the way."
Boesch also was doubled off first base to end a Detroit second inning that cut a three-run Texas lead to 3-2, an uprising that also knocked Rangers starter Rich Harden out of the game. The Tigers had the bases loaded when Brandon Inge lined out to second and Boesch was thrown out at first.
"I just got off the base a little too far," Boesch said. "It's something to learn from."
Combined, rookies Boesch, Jackson and Scott Sizemore were 3-for-12 with six strikeouts. Jackson had one of his strikeouts in the two-run fifth, making the only out as five of the first six Tigers reached base before Inge's double-play lineout ended the inning.
Sizemore left two men on with a strikeout to end the second and another in the fourth to end that inning.
Scherzer allowed a two-run home run to Vladimir Guerrero in the first inning as Detroit fell behind, 2-0. He did go seven innings, allowing two earned runs. He struck out seven and walked only two.
"I needed to put a good quality start in," Scherzer said. "I knew I couldn't be walking people."
The Tigers fell behind, 3-0, in the fourth when Avila corralled the baseball with his mask and was called for an error, forcing Guerrero home from third base.
It was the strange play of the night -- fielders by rule can't use any of their equipment to stop the ball. It is a two-base error.
Avila didn't think home-plate umpire Mike Everitt saw what happened.
But first-base umpire Andy Fletcher came in and ruled that Avila's mask had in fact stopped the ball.
"That's tough," Avila said. "It's a little embarrassing."
Losses like the one the Tigers suffered Friday night are tough, too.