DETROIT -- On the day the Tigers celebrated the life and career of Sparky Anderson before a sellout crowd, Detroit and Arizona combined for 11 runs. Sparky's old team scored seven of them with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, against two of the legendary manager's favorite players, Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell.
"It was just one of those things today," said D-backs starter Joe Saunders, whose seven innings of one-run ball went for naught in the 8-3 Tigers win. "I think Sparky had a little to do with it."
It's hard to make that case when it was Gibson who had to make the trips to the mound to change relievers in the eighth inning, and Trammell who had to watch the rally unfold from the visiting dugout, arms crossed at the bottom of the steps.
Still, the combination of timely hitting and quality at-bats was something that the Tigers will gladly take, and something Anderson probably would have enjoyed watching from the dugout in his day.
"Quite a tribute to Sparky, deservedly so," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after the game. "Hopefully we put the frosting on the cake with a nice win in front of a wonderful crowd."
The eighth-inning rally began with Don Kelly delivering a pinch-hit, one-out single with the Tigers down, 2-1. By the time it ended, Kelly was on base for a second time after his ground ball led to Ryan Roberts' error and the Tigers' final run.
In between were more baserunners in one inning than Saunders had allowed the Tigers over the first seven frames. Back-to-back two-out walks continued the rally before five straight singles.
"Miguel [Cabrera] got a big two-out hit," Leyland said. "That's golden. That's what he's good at. And the other guys just kind of picked up on it and we added some insurance. We had a good win after it looked like it could be a potentially tough day."
The win, combined with an Indians loss Sunday night at San Francisco, earned the Tigers the American League Central lead heading into the week.
For a lineup that has had its share of success against left-handers, the Tigers had some of the same struggles against Saunders that they did against harder-throwing Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw last Monday. Jhonny Peralta's second-inning solo homer accounted for the lone run off him, and Peralta's fourth-inning single accounted for the last hit.
Saunders retired the last 10 batters he faced, and Aaron Heilman retired his first before walking Kelly on five pitches. Heilman (4-1) struck out Austin Jackson before missing on a full-count sinker to Casper Wells for another walk.
That brought up Magglio Ordonez, which brought in hard-throwing setup man David Hernandez.
"He was going to try to overpower him, obviously, and I thought it was a great move by Gibby to bring him in," Leyland said. "He wanted to hardball him. He just didn't throw strikes."
He didn't throw any strikes, sailing three straight fastballs at shoulder level or higher following a first-pitch curve. It loaded the bases for Cabrera.
You can guess the rest -- not just with Cabrera, but Victor Martinez and Peralta after him. It put the Tigers at 5-for-8 with runners in scoring position on the day.
"Everybody did a great job, making him throw strikes and swinging at good pitches," Cabrera said. "Everybody isn't trying to hit a home run or trying to be a hero, just trying to make contact with the ball and put the ball in play."
And everybody did until Brian Shaw finally struck out Jackson for the third out.
"Wherever we hit them, they fell in the gap or fell in the hole," Leyland said.
The victory didn't get a win for Tigers starter Brad Penny, who took a 1-0 lead into the seventh before four singles put Arizona ahead. Instead, it made a winner again out of Al Alburquerque (5-1), who stranded the bases loaded in the seventh and left two more runners on in the eighth for his second victory in as many outings.
"Thank God they took Saunders out," Penny said. "He threw a great game. He was making pitches with everything, pitching in and out, up and down, locating his offspeed stuff. So it was nice [to win]."