The Tigers' winning streak is 12 games, the club's longest run of success since 1934, but the team is trying to view it as 12 individual entities.
"It's coming out every day, playing hard and trying to win every game," said Alex Avila, who had a key pinch-hitting appearance and caught the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday in the Tigers' 6-5 win over the White Sox. "All we've been trying to do, take it one game at a time."
Detroit has a clubhouse full of cliche spouters, and the month of September has seen them live up to most of those overused phrases.
Avila sat on the bench and watched until he was summoned to bat for announced pinch hitter Brandon Inge in the ninth inning with a man on base. Avila drilled a 1-0 fastball into the seats in right center for a score-tying, two-run homer.
Earlier in the inning, Ryan Raburn had pinch-hit a solo home run to shave a 5-2 deficit to two runs.
Then in the 10th, Victor Martinez doubled with one out, and pinch runner Will Rhymes scored on a ground single up the middle by sparsely used veteran Carlos Guillen, who had three hits, including a solo home run, in his first start since Sept. 3.
"Everybody's contributing," Avila said. "That's one of the biggest reasons we've been on a roll. Carlos and Magglio (Ordonez) have been great."
It was a day when manager Jim Leyland chose to rest many of his veteran regulars, a day game after a night game and with a long flight to the West Coast on tap.
Austin Jackson's day off ended when he pinch-ran for Ordonez, who had walked pinch-hitting in the ninth. Jhonny Peralta's day off ended with a pinch-hitting appearance in the ninth. And Avila's day off ended with his home run.
"That was special," Leyland said. "But (Thursday), we've got to play again. Got to fly to the coast and play Oakland."
Spoken like a true veteran baseball man.
--2B Carlos Guillen has been kind of a forgotten player, due mostly to his injury problems, but in his first start since Sept. 3, the veteran collected three hits, including a game-winning RBI single in the 10th inning. Guillen hit off-speed pitches for his solo home run in the second inning and his single to center in the fourth, but it was a 97 mph fastball he slammed up the middle for his game-winner.
"I'm just trying to stay healthy," Guillen said. "I'm doing the best I can on the field. You have to respect the game, prepare yourself."
--DH Victor Martinez generally hits the ball where it's pitched when the situation calls for it. It called for it in the 10th inning, and he drove a 2-2 pitch the other way into the left field corner for a one-out double. It set up the run that ran Detroit's winning streak to 12 games and put the club into position to clinch the division title this weekend at Oakland. Martinez also singled in sixth inning, and 1B Miguel Cabrera, who had doubled, scored when White Sox CF Alex Rios bobbled the ball for an error.
--C Alex Avila got a day off -- eight innings off that is. Avila was granted a break from starting during a day game following a night game and with a trip to the West Coast scheduled afterward. But with Detroit trailing 5-3 in the ninth, he was called on to pinch-hit with a runner on and one out. He drilled a 1-0 pitch into the seats in right center for a score-tying home run, then stayed in to catch the ninth and 10th innings.
"I was trying to get something early in the count to drive and at least extend the inning," Avila said. "Once (RHP Sergio Santos) fell behind 1-0, I was just going to try to be aggressive early in the count. A lot of times pinch-hitting you've got to get your hit early. He is nasty. I got that one pretty good."
--RF Ryan Raburn pinch-hit a one-out solo home run in the ninth inning to put a spark into Detroit's comeback victory at Chicago over the White Sox. Raburn now has 14 home runs, and he is having another hot second half.
--RHP Jose Valverde struck out the side to extend his club record for saves to 44, which is three off his personal best. Valverde went almost exclusively with fastballs after using more split-fingers in recent appearances.
--RHP Al Alburquerque was one of four Detroit relief pitchers to work a scoreless inning and give the Tigers a chance to overcome a 5-2 deficit in the final two innings. He battled a sore hip muscle in his previous outing, and manager Jim Leyland and trainer Kevin Rand came out in the middle of his inning when they saw him flinch after a pitch. "I was a little worried about him," Leyland said. "He says he's OK, but he and I, we don't correspond very good. I don't understand him, and he doesn't understand me. I gotta get somebody else to come in there. I saw him grimace a couple times. When you're a young guy like that, you probably don't want to tell a major league manager you can't go. And I'm not sure I can talk enough sense into him. We can't take any chances. This is a critical time for us. I don't want anybody being a hero. Sometimes when there's a language barrier like we have, that's why I brought Carlos (Guillen) and Miguel (Cabrera) in to talk to him."
--RHP Ryan Perry seems to have benefited from his three trips to the minors this season. Perry worked a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts, and he had command of both his fastball and slider. He has been scored upon twice in 11 outings since returning from Class AAA Toledo on Aug. 12.
--RHP Brad Penny allowed five runs in six innings, but his own error on a bunt made the four second-inning runs he allowed unearned. Penny got two outs with the bases loaded before giving up a two-run double to SS Alexi Ramirez and a two-run single to 1B Paul Konerko on consecutive fastballs. "He kept us in the game," manager Jim Leyland said. "They nickeled and dimed him, but we can't complain about those. We've been getting our share of those." Penny has been trying to speed up his pitching pace at the urging of pitching coach Jeff Jones, and Leyland and it seems to have helped.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- The club record for consecutive victories, set by the 1934 Tigers. Detroit is currently riding a 12-game winning streak, its longest since the record run.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm happier for him than anybody else. They're professionals the way they've handled it. They're unbelievable. Big rewards for them." -- Manager Jim Leyland, praising the way his veterans, 2B Carlos Guillen and RF Magglio Ordonez, have handled reduced playing time as their careers wind down. Guillen went 3-for-5 with a home run and the game-winning single Wednesday. Ordonez pinch-hit and drew a walk ahead of PH Alex Avila's scoring-tying homer in the ninth inning.