DETROIT (AP) — Victor Martinez’s home run gave Detroit another big boost in the late innings.
Martinez hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth, and the Tigers beat Baltimore 4-3 on Friday night, pulling even with the Orioles for the American League’s second wild card. It was another tight, tense victory for Detroit, which has won five consecutive one-run games since late August.
"The back end of bullpens are usually some of the best arms in the game," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We don’t give up against them."
Michael Fulmer pitched seven solid innings, and the Tigers won despite blowing a 3-0 lead. The Orioles tied it in the eighth when Adam Jones hit an RBI single, but Martinez led off the bottom half with a drive to right-center field off reliever Brad Brach (8-3).
Alex Wilson (3-0) got the win even after allowing the tying run in the eighth. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth for his 40th save in 44 chances. He is tied with Baltimore’s Zach Britton for the AL lead in saves.
The Orioles fell three games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
The last Detroit starter to win a game was Justin Verlander on Aug. 26. Since then, the Tigers have been able to keep pace by pulling out close games late. Friday’s victory was no exception.
"This was a great game between two teams that are trying to get into the postseason, and we just came up a little short," Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman said. "I’ve pitched in the playoffs, and that’s what it felt like tonight."
Gausman allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked two.
J.D. Martinez hit a two-run single in the fifth to give Detroit a 3-0 lead, but Jonathan Schoop hit a two-run homer the following inning to start Baltimore’s comeback.
Gausman hadn’t allowed a run in his previous three outings, but that streak came to an end when Erick Aybar hit an RBI double in the second. The right-hander got out of a jam in the third when right fielder Mark Trumbo threw Ian Kinsler out at the plate to end the inning.
J.D. Martinez delivered with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth to give the Tigers a three-run lead.
Detroit left fielder Justin Upton reached up at the wall in the third to take a possible homer away from Hyun Soo Kim.
Upton and Miguel Cabrera struck out three times each.
Fulmer allowed two runs and three hits against Baltimore’s powerful lineup. The rookie right-hander struck out five and walked one.
He is up to 143 2/3 innings for the Tigers this year. Detroit has tried to manage his workload, and this was an encouraging start after he had lost three straight.
"It felt playoff atmosphere — if I knew what it felt like," Fulmer said. "I got pumped up there, the later I went in the game."
Brach has a 3.98 ERA since the All-Star break. It was 0.91 before the break.
Manager Buck Showalter wasn’t putting the blame on the reliever for this game, however.
"Victor Martinez is a great hitter," Showalter said. "You can make a perfect pitch to him, and end up with exactly that result."
Orioles: Showalter said RHP Darren O’Day (right rotator cuff) might throw a simulated game soon. He said OF Joey Rickard (right thumb ligament) hit Thursday, and RHP Chris Tillman (right shoulder) threw Friday.
Tigers: 3B Nick Castellanos (left hand) said in the clubhouse before the game his goal is to be back before Sept. 18.
Orioles: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (6-11) takes the mound Saturday night against the Tigers. He’s coming off a two-hitter at Tampa Bay in his last start.
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-5) returns to the mound for his second start since June and first since Aug. 4. He’s battled neck problems for much of the season.