The Tigers lost 6-5 in 19 innings, having held a 5-0 lead as late as the sixth inning. We’re going to break this down a bit, because much like Saturday, this game was a microcosm of everything that the Tigers do poorly far too frequently, and nearly everyone was culpable in this series of events.
Hard to say here. They’re the only reason the game lasted 19 innings, but they’re also a big reason the game ended up in extra innings in the first place.
It really started with David Price, who had locked down the Jays through five innings and had been staked to a 5-0 lead. A two run homer for Dioner Navarro made it 5-2 in the sixth. Gene Lamont (or Brad Ausmus, who’d been ejected) let Price start the seventh at over 100 pitches and he promptly allowed the first two to reach. Phil Coke came in and got a couple ground balls, one of which ended up being a fielder’s choice and not a double play and another of which was misplayed by Nick Castellanos into a base hit. Suddenly it was 5-4.
Al Alburquerque came in and struck out all four batters he faced, getting it to the 9th, where Joba Chamberlain filled in for unavailable Joe Nathan. Joba faced the weak bottom three of the lineup, but it hardly mattered. Light-hitting Anthony Gose led off and singled. The speedy Gose then stole second – originally called out, but overturned on review. Colby Rasmus and Munenori Kawasaki were retired, but Gose reaching meant Jose Reyes got to bat, and Reyes lined a hanging slider into center for a two out base hit that tied the game at five. Price, the bullpen, and some shoddy defense had combined to throw away a 5-0 lead.
That’s really where the blame for the bullpen ends, though, because Blaine Hardy, Pat McCoy, and Joe Nathan (yes, him) combined to throw seven scoreless innings of relief. Rick Porcello followed and gave up the walkoff single to Jose Bautista after a single to Kawasaki and a defensive snafu that allowed Reyes to reach on a bunt. Rick wasn’t even supposed to pitch today, so I have a hard time putting too much of this on him.
As I said, the offense did enough to win this in nine. It was 5-0 in the 6th with David Price on the mound. They shouldn’t have needed more.
But it turned out they would need more, and they responded pathetically. Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez were both out of the game, having been lifted for defensive replacements, and they only helped ensure that a toothless offense failed to score a single run in the final 15 innings of play.
- Rajai Davis had a big fat 0-for-8 atop the lineup. The opponent was a lefty, so his start was perfectly defensible, but his pathetic effort against all the right-handed relievers he faced should serve as evidence enough that he should never start against one. Ezequiel Carrera won’t be very good either, but he couldn’t possibly do any worse.
- On the surface, Torii Hunter’s 4-for-9 looks good, and I’m certainly not going to complain about a four hit day. But twice in extra innings, he came up in a huge spot and failed. He had a chance with the bases loaded and one out in the 16th but grounded back to the pitcher for an inning-ending double play. In the 18th, he came up with two on and two out and hit a check swing grounder to first on the very first pitch. Any sort of execution, particularly in the 16th, gives the Tigers the lead.
- Don Kelly, who entered as a defensive replacement, went 1-for-5. That didn’t help.
- Eugenio Suarez, who entered as a pinch hitter once the game was tied, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Also didn’t help.
- Andrew Romine went 2-for-9. One of his hits was a single that moved Bryan Holaday to third. Romine, apparently unwilling to stop at first and set up a nice run scoring opportunity, inexplicably got himself hung up between first and second. A series of awful decisions later, he was ruled out via replay at second base, so instead of two on with one out with the top of the order coming up, it was one on with two out. The Tigers did not score. (All this does is underscore the fact that for all of the emphasis on baserunning in Spring Training, the Tigers remain a poor baserunning team).
In total, the Tigers got 22 hits in 19 innings, but scored just five runs.
It won’t get its own section since it was outlined in the bullpen department, but the defense did Phil Coke no favors and also led to the winning run.
The Tigers’ division lead has evaporated and is down to a half game. Last time this happened, they responded, the Royals got cold again, and the Tigers had restored that lead rather comfortably rather quickly. This is why the proclamations of “THIS TEAM CAN’T WIN A TITLE, THEY’RE GONNA BE IN SECOND, WAIVER TRADE SCHERZER, BLOW IT ALL UP” are laughably reactionary and, quite frankly, stupid. The Tigers have shown plenty of times this year they’re a good team, but right now, they’re a mess. It needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed soon, and there is no switch that Brad Ausmus or Dave Dombrowski or anyone can flip to just make it all better. Injuries aren’t helping, but players who have proven to be effective in the past are not executing right now, and they need to regain that effectiveness. Everyone needs to look in the mirror, but with a month and a half of regular season baseball left to be played, there is plenty of time to fix it and win some games. But it does need to change, and everybody knows that. They’re off to Pittsburgh for a home-and-home against the Pirates.