DETROIT -- Dixon Machado had one walk-off hit earlier this season -- a home run that punctuated a win for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens back in June -- but it couldn't compare to how Friday night's feat felt to the Detroit Tigers' 23-year-old rookie infielder.
When Machado was in the hole, he was doubtful he'd even get the opportunity. But with two outs and the bases loaded after the Kansas City Royals' Greg Holland walked in the tying run in the bottom of the 12th, Machado had his chance.
"When I saw [Tyler] Collins walk I was like OK, this is the moment," Machado said of his game-ending heroics in the Tigers' 5-4 victory over the Royals.
The count was 2-2 and he was just waiting for a fastball in the strike zone. Holland left an 81 mph slider high and that was all Machado needed for the first walk-off hit of his major league career. He worried at first that the single to left might have been caught, but was relieved to see it drop. He was immediately engulfed by his teammates.
"I don't have words to describe that moment, really," he said.
The Tigers are firmly out of playoff contention, but you would not have known it from the raucous celebration that ensued, including not one but two Gatorade showers for the youngster. Machado said he didn't mind getting a little wet.
"I'm fine with that. I can do that every night," Machado said. "I don't care."
It was the type of ending that buoyed the club after a ninth-inning gut punch that sent the game into extra innings. Ace Justin Verlander, who was spectacular in allowing just two runs in 8⅔ innings of work, was yanked from the mound with just one out to go. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, booed for the decision, replaced him with reliever Alex Wilson, who subsequently gave up the game-tying two-run shot to catcher Salvador Perez.
The resilience in the following innings was a positive, culminating with a productive 12th inning that began with a leadoff single from Anthony Gose. Miguel Cabrera, who earlier in the game snapped an 0-for-20 slump, lined one to left for his 42nd multihit game of the season. With the bases loaded, Collins worked a walk that tied the score.
"Unbelievable effort by the rest of the guys," Wilson said. "Wish it could have been a shorter game but having those other guys step up and have those guys battle for another four innings is incredible, and everybody should focus on that and the way our team came together to pull that off."
Wilson was thrilled to see Machado be the one to seal the win.
"He's a special kid. He works his tail off. He's a gamer. He goes out there every day and works hard. Guys like him deserve that opportunity," Wilson said. "Of all the people on our team, I'm glad it was him."
And yes, Machado said, it felt very different from the one he hit in Triple-A.
"Of course. Everything you do in the big leagues is different than the minor leagues," Machado said. "It doesn't matter what it is, it's way different."