Cubs claim 7-6 ‘character win’ against Tigers

The Cubs kicked off a three-game series in Detroit with a victory.

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The Cubs’ Nick Madrigal celebrates scoring a run in the ninth inning of Monday’s game against the Tigers.

The Cubs’ Nick Madrigal celebrates scoring a run in the ninth inning of Monday’s game against the Tigers.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

DETROIT — The Cubs came out swinging in the ninth inning Monday.

Three pitches in, Yan Gomes and Nick Madrigal already had hit back-to-back doubles, enabling them to retake the lead. Three batters later, they added what ended up being a much-needed insurance run when Madrigal scored on a fielder’s choice.

‘‘That’s a character win,’’ manager David Ross said after the Cubs’ 7-6 victory against the Tigers at Comerica Park.

The Cubs’ last six games have been decided by two or fewer runs, and they’ve gone 4-2 in those games. They also have been in a soft part of their schedule.

But painting the Cubs’ victory Monday with that kind of a broad brush leaves out key details.

‘‘We’ve got some guys that have normally held down the back of the bullpen [who were unavailable],’’ Ross said. ‘‘If those guys are available today, we probably can stretch it out to, like, a 7-2 game, and it feels like more of a blowout,” Ross said. “But sometimes you’ve got to claw teeth and nails.”

The Cubs’ back-end relievers — Adbert Alzolay, Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. — all were coming off back-to-back appearances. Leiter had pitched the least of the trio, throwing 13 pitches in the last two games combined, so he took the mound in the ninth and earned the save.

Before Ross had to make those back-end decisions, starter Javier Assad held the Tigers scoreless through the first five innings. The only runs he allowed came on back-to-back solo homers by Spencer Torkelson and Kerry Carpenter in the sixth.

Assad handed the ball over to Hayden Wesneski with one out in the sixth, and Wesneski and Jose Cuas held the Tigers at bay through the seventh.

When Michael Fulmer took over in the eighth, the Cubs had a 5-2 lead. But in what Ross described as a ‘‘tough night,’’ Fulmer yielded three runs on four hits and a walk as the Tigers stormed back to tie the score.

The Tigers’ eighth-inning comeback was orchestrated by two former Cubs: Javy Baez, a member of the 2016 championship core, and Zach McKinstry, whom the Cubs acquired at the trade deadline last season and traded to the Tigers this spring.

Baez hit a broken-bat double down the right-field line to drive in two runs, then McKinstry hit a blooper into center field that a sliding Cody Bellinger couldn’t quite glove to make it 5-5.

‘‘Even when it doesn’t go your way — pitching side, offense side — when the rest of your team is there to pick you up, that’s what makes a special team,’’ Madrigal said. ‘‘We got some big innings out of the pitchers, and for us to bounce back in the top half of the next inning was huge for us.’’

Rookie Daniel Palencia got the last two outs of the eighth before the Cubs mounted their winning offensive push.

Return to Detroit

The Tigers honored corner infielder Jeimer Candelario with a tribute video before the game. Candelario spent 5½ seasons with the Tigers after the Cubs traded him in 2017.

‘‘He’s grown so much,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I got to see him as a teammate early on in his career here with Chicago. ‘‘But just the maturity he has because he’s played so many games and played in the league for so long now that he’s very consistent the way he goes about his business.’’

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