“You never feel safe,” he said.
Not for a single inning.
Starter Mike Fiers took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning. Four batters and one long, majestic fly ball by White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez later, the game was tied.
But, as has been the Tigers’ way this year, they shrugged it off and found another way to win the game.
They manufactured a run out of a single and walk in the eighth inning to win their third straight, beating the White Sox, 4-3, in the first of a three-game set.
John Hicks, who homered earlier in the game, opened the eighth with a line-drive single to right off reliever Juan Minaya. Niko Goodrum walked.
Hicks smartly tagged and went to third on a fly out to right field by James McCann. Goodrum then stole second.
Victor Reyes, the Tigers’ Rule 5 rookie, hit a ground ball to first baseman Jose Abreu, who was playing in. Abreu bobbled the ball slightly, just long enough to allow Hicks to slide safely around the tag at the plate.
There was more drama, though. The White Sox loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth against Alex Wilson. But Wilson got Charlie Tilson to hit a ground ball to first. Hicks threw home to force out the lead runner.
Then Wilson got Adam Engel to ground out softly to short.
Shane Greene had to get through the top of the White Sox lineup in the ninth to close it out. The ever-dangerous Abreu kept it going with a two-out infield single.
Greene, though, ended it by retiring Trayce Thompson.
The Tigers have won the last three games with late-inning rallies.
But go back to that sixth inning.
With one out and Fiers seemingly in control, Daniel Palka and Matt Davidson singled. Davidson earned his working a 10-pitch at-bat after falling behind 1-2. The next pitch Fiers threw, an 85-mph two-seamer to Narvaez, wound up flying over the right-field fence — game-tying three-run homer, his first since early last September.
It was only the fifth two-seamer Fiers threw in 83 pitches.
Fiers’ next pitch was his last.
He drilled Tim Anderson square in the back. Anderson voiced his displeasure and the White Sox players started spilling out of their dugout. But Gardenhire was quick to the mound and Fiers himself made it clear he had no malicious intent.
Order was restored, though Fiers was booed lustily on his way off the field.
There were signs the White Sox were starting to figure out Fiers in the fifth inning. They produced two singles and walk, but Fiers got a double-play ball and struck out Yolmer Sanchez on three pitches to strand two runners.