Detroit — Carlos Guillen has had two game-winning plays in two nights — but the one Saturday night was a bit more dramatic.
Leading off the 10th inning, Guillen hit Brendan Donnelly’s 2-0 pitch 370 feet out of Comerica Park to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I knew it was gone. I hit it pretty good,” Guillen said. “I don’t know, I think it was a cutter inside. Trying to make good contact, trying to hit it hard.”
It was fortunate for Guillen that he hit it out instead of getting a single as he had earlier in the game.
“It’s funny, too, because if he got a base hit, I was going to pinch run for him,” manager Jim Leyland said. “His calf was tightening up and I was going to pinch run for him if he got a base hit. Worked out pretty good.”
Guillen might not be able to play Sunday if his right calf continues to bother him.
“It started cramping in the first inning,” Guillen said. “As the game went on it was getting tight. I don’t know, see how I feel (Sunday).”
Guillen’s other impressive play didn’t get quite as much attention, but his manager noticed.
In Friday night’s game, the Tigers were leading 6-1 in the eighth inning and the Pirates were threatening. Andrew McCutchen, whom Leyland said is one of the best young players in baseball, had doubled and Neil Walker had walked. Ryan Doumit hit a ball sharply to short and Ramon Santiago started the double play.
“Carlos Guillen made the play of the game on the double play,” Leyland said. “That was not an easy double play. He hung in there, turned the double play on Doumit and that was a huge, huge play.”
The Pirates managed to score one run after that but the threat was stifled because Guillen hung in and made the throw.
Guillen appears to be making a home for himself both at second base and in the sixth spot in the lineup.
“There are two things I’m going to do this year — Carlos Guillen is going to bat sixth all year, I’m not going to take him out of that spot,” Leyland said, “And I’m not going to defense for him. He’s moved around enough. I don’t want him to worry about anything but second base and hitting.
“It’s important to give your players every chance to be the best players they can be and doing this gives him a chance to be the best player he can be.”
That plan is fine with Guillen.
“I like it. It’s fun when you’re out there every day,” Guillen said. “When you’ve got guys like Magglio (Ordonez), Miggy (Miguel Cabrera) and (Brennan) Boesch, they get on base a lot, so it’s a good spot. You’re always going to find runners in scoring position, runners on base.”
Guillen has battled injuries his whole career and with the recent debacle involving the Angels’ Kendry Morales in which he broke his leg in the celebration after hitting a walk-off grand slam, the Tigers weren’t taking any chances.
“It was one of those things where you see what can happen with unfortunately, Kendry Morales,” Gerald Laird said. “It’s nice to see but it’s definitely taming the celebration. It was a heck of an at-bat by him. We just wanted to make sure he touched the plate healthy.”
That, too, was fine with Guillen.
“We’ve got to learn, we’ve got to keep everybody healthy,” he said. “You have to celebrate, but the right way.”