DETROIT (AP) — It was only a Friday night in June, but Jim Leyland was managing like he was in the middle of a pennant race.With Detroit needing a win to tie the Cleveland Indians for first place in the AL Central, Leyland even had starting pitcher Rick Porcello warming up in the ninth inning. Porcello wasn’t going to enter the game as a pitcher, though.
“If Victor (Martinez) had gotten on base, I was going to use Porcello to run for him,” Leyland said. “I hate doing that, but I was out of players.”
Martinez grounded out for the second out of the ninth, saving Leyland from the dilemma. Jhonny Peralta hit an infield single off Seattle closer Brandon League’s glove, but pinch-hitter Ramon Santiago grounded out to give Seattle a 3-2 victory.
“This felt like one of those games where you just aren’t meant to win,” Leyland said. “We just couldn’t do anything offensively. We came in swinging the bats well, but you just have to tip your caps to those guys. They pitched a great game.”
Detroit starter Brad Penny (5-5) pitched well after three straight poor outings, but couldn’t do anything with Seattle rookie Carlos Peguero.
Starting in place of Ichiro Suzuki in right field, Peguero tripled in the fifth and scored the tying run. Then in the seventh, he hit a towering flyball down the right-field line off Penny that stayed a few feet fair as it went over the wall.
“I made two terrible pitches to Peguero, and he killed both of them,” Penny said. “I felt fine, but I’m never going to be happy when I lose a game.”
Peguero is slugging .500 in his 26-game career.
“I feel more relaxed,” he said. “My timing is better right now. I feel like I don’t have to swing really, really hard to hit the ball far.”
Chris Ray (3-1) pitched the sixth and seventh innings in relief for Seattle. David Pauley worked the eighth, and Brandon League pitched the ninth for his 18th save.
With two outs and a man on first, pinch-hitter Ramon Santiago lifted a flyball deep to the right-field corner, but it landed foul. He eventually grounded out to end the game.
Victor Martinez hit a two-run homer for the Tigers, one of only five hits for Detroit. The Tigers entered the night a game behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central.
Detroit is 9-3 in its last 12 games.
Suzuki was left out of the starting lineup amid a lengthy slump. He’s hitting .252 this season and only .149 since May 19.
“He’s been playing baseball for a long time,” manager Eric Wedge said before the game. “He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough. He has so many different things that are reasons for the fact that he has been so successful, but ultimately, he’s a human being, and everybody needs a break every now and again.”
Justin Smoak put Seattle ahead with a solo homer in the top of the first, his 11th of the season. Martinez answered in the fourth with an opposite-field shot that gave Detroit a 2-1 lead before Peguero took over.
He came up again in the ninth with a man on second and one out, but the Tigers weren’t about to give him another chance to hit. They intentionally walked him.
“I’ve seen what he can do,” Leyland said. “There was no reason to pitch to him there.”
Seattle starter Erik Bedard allowed two runs and three hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked three before giving way to Ray, who retired six straight Tigers in the sixth and seventh. Pauley took over in the eighth, and pinch-hitter Don Kelly led off with an infield single off his glove. Kelly made it as far as third base before Brennan Boesch struck out swinging at a pitch in the dirt to end the inning.
Penny pitched seven innings, allowing three runs and eight hits with two strikeouts.
Notes: Detroit has at least one extra-base hit in all 63 games this season. … Seattle’s Chone Figgins, who took over Suzuki’s leadoff spot, had two hits. … Detroit’s Ryan Raburn struck out three times, and Leyland said he will get the next day or two off. Raburn is hitting .200 this season with 66 strikeouts in 185 at-bats. … Pauley lowered his ERA to 0.96.
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