DETROIT (AP)—Rick Porcello baffled the Seattle Mariners for six innings, and when Detroit finally added a few more runs for the young right-hander, the Tigers were one step closer to another division title.
That was cause for celebration in a clubhouse that seems a little livelier these days.
”September hits, sometimes you get kind of laid back and you get tired, so we’re just trying to pump ourselves up,” outfielder Torii Hunter said. ”After the game, we always try to turn the music up loud and jump up and down. We have a huddle and we start screaming loud for no reason. … Only time we get to do it is if we win.”
The anticipation is building in Motown. Porcello struck out 10 and the Tigers beat the Seattle Mariners 4-2 on Monday night. Victor Martinez broke a 1-all tie in the sixth with a run-scoring single, and Omar Infante followed with his own RBI single.
The AL Central-leading Tigers increased their advantage over Cleveland to six games with 12 to play.
Porcello (13-8) allowed a run and five hits with two walks, falling one strikeout short of his career high. Drew Smyly got five outs in relief and Jose Veras finished the eighth.
Joaquin Benoit pitched a hitless ninth for his 21st save in 21 chances.
”I think as a ballclub we’re really coming on strong here,” Porcello said. ”Guys are working. It’s September. Everybody’s had a long season, but everybody’s coming in with focus, and they’re playing good baseball.”
Joe Saunders (11-15) pitched well until the sixth, when he got two outs before a walk and three hits chased him from the game.
Abraham Almonte homered for Seattle, which has lost seven of eight.
”Everyone hates losing,” Justin Smoak said. ”We’ve been in tight ballgames and haven’t been able to get the big hit.”
It was tied at 1 in the sixth when Miguel Cabrera walked and Prince Fielder followed with a single. Martinez’s single up the line in right field scored Cabrera, and Infante lined a single to left to make it 3-1.
That rally made a winner of Porcello, who has bounced back nicely after giving up eight earned runs in a 20-4 loss to Boston on Sept. 4.
Porcello pitched his first career complete game in a win over the Chicago White Sox last Tuesday, and he was sharp against the punchless Mariners as well.
”He’s starting to change speeds a lot. He used to have the slider, he threw it pretty hard, and the sinker, everything was hard so you kind of gauge it off that,” Hunter said. ”But now he’s starting to hit his spots, in and out, hard and soft and changing up his sequence a lot and mixing it up well. I think he’s grown. He’s smarter. He knows if a guy can’t hit a certain pitch, he keeps throwing it until he shows that he can hit it. I think that’s maturity.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first when Hunter and Cabrera hit back-to-back singles, and Hunter came home on a wild pitch. After that mistake, Saunders quieted Detroit, allowing no more than one baserunner in any inning until the sixth.
But it was a frustrating finish for Saunders, who allowed six runs over three innings in his previous start against Houston. He ended up yielding three runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings this time.
Saunders, who was seen throwing things in the dugout after being pulled, did not speak with reporters after the game.
Tom Wilhelmsen relieved Saunders and got out of the sixth, but appeared to get hit in the right leg by Alex Avila’s leadoff single in the seventh. Wilhelmsen stayed in the game and eventually allowed an RBI single by Hunter with two outs.
Smoak’s RBI single off Smyly in the eighth made it 4-2.
NOTES: Porcello struck out 11 against Pittsburgh on May 28. … Smoak snapped an 0-for-17 slump with a fourth-inning single. … Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (14-7) faces Seattle RHP Brandon Maurer (4-8) on Tuesday night.