Fielder leads Tigers past Mariners
Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers are hungry for another division title.
The slugging first baseman added some levity to Thursday’s 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners when he took a chip from a fan sitting in the first row and ate it after unsuccessfully chasing a foul ball. Then Fielder scored the go-ahead run a couple innings later, sliding home in the seventh on a close play at the plate.
"It was pretty close," Fielder said. "I was just faster, I guess."
Fielder was thrown out at home on a similar play to end a game against Kansas City last weekend.
Detroit trailed 4-3 after Seattle’s Dustin Ackley hit a three-run homer in the fifth, but Fielder’s RBI single in the seventh tied it. Then he scored from first when Victor Martinez doubled off Charlie Furbush (2-6).
In the top of the fifth, Fielder chased after a foul ball that dropped near the stands. Before returning to his position, he took what looked like a nacho from one of the fans near the front and ate it, while receiving a pat on the back from another fan.
"Thought about dipping in the cheese, but he might double dip," Fielder joked. "I don’t think he even noticed it."
Detroit maintained its six-game lead in the AL Central over second-place Cleveland, which beat Houston 2-1 in 11 innings.
Torii Hunter homered for the Tigers. Doug Fister (13-9) struck out 10 in 7 2-3 innings. Drew Smyly got one out, and Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect ninth for his 22nd save in 22 chances.
Detroit shortstop Jose Iglesias left after being hit on the left hand by a pitch in the sixth inning. X-rays were negative.
"The good thing is it’s not broken. It’s really painful," Iglesias said. "I got lucky."
Detroit acquired Iglesias from Boston in a trade shortly before shortstop Jhonny Peralta was suspended as part of Major League Baseball’s investigation into Biogenesis of America, a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Peralta is eligible to return Sept. 27, but the Tigers plan to keep Iglesias at shortstop and work out Peralta in the outfield.
Fielder doubled in the third and fifth. After Hunter led off the Detroit seventh with a double and went to third on Miguel Cabrera’s flyout, Fielder hit a single to make it 4-all.
Martinez, who had already been intentionally walked twice, followed with his second double of the game — to the corner in left field. Fielder scored, although the Mariners argued the call.
"It was a bang-bang play at the plate," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "(Catcher Mike Zunino) did a great job of getting the throw and making it close."
Martinez is hitting .367 since the All-Star break.
"I’ve known him a long time, and I know all the ways he can beat you, "Wedge said. "The last time, there wasn’t anywhere to put him because Prince was on first, and he did what he’s done for years. He’s just a great hitter."
Seattle scored a run in the first on an RBI single by Raul Ibanez. Hunter tied it in the bottom half with a solo shot, and Martinez added an RBI double later in the inning.
Seattle intentionally walked Martinez in the third with men on second and third, but starter James Paxton walked Omar Infante on four pitches to force in a run and make it 3-1.
Fister allowed four runs and nine hits with one walk. His only major mistake was a pitch to Ackley in the fifth that the Seattle outfielder hit over the wall in right for his fourth homer of the year.
Paxton allowed three runs and five hits in five innings.
Detroit has three games left on this homestand, and the Tigers could clinch a third straight AL Central title as early as Saturday if enough results fall into place.
"We definitely want to clinch over here. We definitely want to get it done in front of our great fans. They’ve been up here with us all year long," Martinez said. "They really deserve seeing the celebration here."
NOTES: Martinez, normally Detroit’s DH, started at catcher for the third time this season. … Tigers pitchers have 1,323 strikeouts, five more than the previous team record set last year. … Detroit hosts the Chicago White Sox on Friday night. Tigers RHP Max Scherzer (19-3) faces RHP Andre Rienzo (2-2). Seattle RHP Erasmo Ramirez (5-2) faces Los Angeles Angels RHP Jered Weaver (10-8).