Then Ramon Santiago entered the game as a defensive replacement -- and won it with a hit.
Santiago's RBI triple in the bottom of the 10th inning gave Detroit a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night in a game that featured 37 players, two ejections and about a half-dozen big plays on the bases. The Tigers remained in a virtual tie for first place on the eve of their big series against Cleveland.
"It was just a great ballgame," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "Nip and tuck all the way, two good teams going at it the way you're supposed to go at it. We finally got the big hit."
With one out in the 10th, Victor Martinez singled off Kyle Farnsworth (2-1). Santiago followed with a drive to the gap in right-center. Center fielder B.J. Upton did his best to run the ball down, but Martinez scored just before the relay to the plate.
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That wasn't quite as close as another play at the plate in the seventh inning. With the Tigers leading 1-0, Tampa Bay loaded the bases with one out, and Casey Kotchman lifted a flyball to right field.
Ordonez, in his first game back after missing 28 with a right ankle injury, caught it and threw to the plate on one bounce. Justin Ruggiano, who had tagged up, came sliding home but was called out by umpire John Tumpane.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon came out to argue and was ejected. Moments later, David Price -- a starting pitcher with the day off -- was also ejected from the dugout.
"The replay speaks for itself. MLB really has to review all that stuff, because it is a play that comes up quite often," Maddon said. "I was a little annoyed that sometimes, it seems to go against us on the heavy side. I had my say, but that's not up to me to rectify."
Replays showed Ruggiano may have initially missed home, but it was unclear whether catcher Alex Avila tagged him before the runner stuck his foot back toward the plate.
Second base umpire Mike Everitt, the crew chief, backed Tumpane up afterward.
"In his judgment, he believed [Ruggiano] was tagged out before he touched the plate," Everitt said. "In his judgment, he was out. He did a great job. That was a tough game. I'm very proud of him."
Collisions at the plate have been a major topic recently after San Francisco catcher Buster Posey was injured in one. Ruggiano tried to slide home this time, but after Avila did a good job blocking the plate, he isn't sure what he'll do on the next close play at home.
"If they're going to give catchers the benefit of the doubt on those plays, then I feel like that narrows down our options to a collision at home every time," Ruggiano said. "It's not something that you want to do, but for me now, it seems like if there's anything close, I'm going to have to make a decision."
Damon set a Tampa Bay record by reaching base for a 38th consecutive game.
There wasn't a single ball in play in the ninth inning. Detroit's Jose Valverde struck out the first two hitters of the top half before walking Kotchman. Pinch-runner Sam Fuld was thrown out stealing. Tampa Bay's Juan Cruz struck out the side in the bottom half.
David Purcey (1-0) pitched the top of the 10th, and Santiago -- who had entered the game at second base when Detroit was protecting a lead in the eighth -- won it with only his sixth RBI of the year.
"I was ready for a fastball early in the count, because I knew he would go to his other stuff later," Santiago said. "I got one, and I just wanted to hit it on the sweet spot."
Tampa Bay finished 6-5 on an 11-game road trip. The Rays were in Detroit for only one game -- to make up for a May 25 rainout.
Detroit (36-30) begins a three-game series with Cleveland (35-29) on Tuesday night. The Tigers trailed the Indians by seven games on May 23.
Martinez drove in the game's first run with a fifth-inning single. Phil Coke pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Tigers, allowing four hits and striking out three.
Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb went 5 2-3 innings, allowing a run on eight hits. He walked two and struck out seven. He got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first when Martinez flied out to center and Austin Jackson was thrown out at home by Upton.
- Maddon says he doesn't think Boston OF Carl Crawford should receive a rude reception when Tampa Bay hosts the Red Sox on Tuesday night. Crawford left the Rays to sign a $142 million, seven-year contract with Boston in December. "This guy worked really hard to put himself in position to earn that kind of money," Maddon said. "How could you ever begrudge that? Anybody, in their occupation, given the same set of circumstances or opportunities, would have done the same thing."
- Damon spoke a bit before the game about former teammate Derek Jeter's pursuit of 3,000 hits. When asked when his own 3,000th might come, the 37-year-old Damon said: "If we do the calculations right, probably 2013 would be on the radar. Hopefully not 2014." Damon has 2,642 hits.