Miracle comeback fitting for Downs’ first win

DETROIT — It will probably get lost in the excitement of Detroit’s improbable win over Cleveland, but one of the best stories in baseball got an even happier ending Sunday afternoon.

Darin Downs’ teammates noticed, though, as one of them gave him the traditional beer shower that comes with a first major-league victory.

“I don’t know who it was – I had my eyes closed,” Downs said.

Downs had been an afterthought during the game, giving up another run after replacing Joaquin Benoit in Cleveland’s three-run 10th. That, though, put him in place to be credited with the victory after Detroit’s five-run rally in the bottom of the inning.

“It wasn’t my best outing – I would have rather had a clean outing,” he said. “But you take wins when you can get them. This was a big one, because the game went back and forth and we ended up on top.”

If Downs were an Olympian, his story would be plastered all over prime-time television instead of being largely unknown outside Detroit. Not only did he spend 10 seasons in the minors before making it to the big leagues last month, he came within millimeters of losing his life in the process.

In 2009, while pitching in the Tampa Bay system, Downs was hit above the right ear by a 103-mph line drive. He sustained a fractured skull, and briefly lost the ability to speak as blood pooled around his swollen brain. He nearly died and didn’t know for months if he would be able to summon the courage to pitch again.

Three years later, he’s a winning pitcher in the major leagues, thanks to one of the craziest games in recent Tigers memory.

“I’ve seen games like that in the minors, but never in the majors,” he said. “It’s fun in this clubhouse right now.”


Jim Leyland spent the last eight innings watching Sunday’s chaos unfold on the television in his office. He was ejected in the second inning during a bizarre chain of events.

The play started when Gerald Laird was involved in a very close play at first. He obviously disagreed with first-base umpire Sam Holbrook’s call, but did not stay to argue. Suddenly, as Danny Worth prepared to bat, Holbrook ejected Laird from 130 feet away. Laird charged out of the dugout, but was restrained by home-plate umpire Joe West and couldn’t get near Holbrook.  

“All I know is that I didn’t say a word from the dugout,” Laird said. “For him to throw me out from that far away — I don’t know what he was watching.”

Leyland also came out to question Holbrook, but didn’t appear to be in any jeopardy of being ejected until West started yelling at a Tigers player in the dugout, believed to be Justin Verlander. Leyland then began to argue with West and was quickly ejected from the game.

That meant he and Laird could only watch the next three-plus hours as the Tigers repeatedly fell behind before their final improbable surge.

“You learn when you’ve done this as long as I have that you just have to sit down and watch the pitchers,” Leyland said. “You’d certainly like to be out on the field during wins like that, but it didn’t work out that way today.”


The Tigers announced a trade during the game, acquiring utility man Jeff Baker from the Cubs for two minor-league players to be named later. Baker has many of the same skills as recently departed Don Kelly, but crucially hits right-handed. The 31-year-old can play first, second, third and both corner outfield positions.

In his career, Baker is a .304 hitter against left-handed pitching, with 25 homers in 608 at-bats. This season, he is hitting just .275 against lefties, but still has a .462 slugging percentage.

To make room for Baker, who will report to the Tigers on Monday, the Tigers optioned Danny Worth to Triple-A Toledo. Worth has now been moved between Toledo and Detroit nine times this season.