Keep playing with fire, and you will get burned.
After dodging a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning, the Detroit Tigers couldn’t pull off the same escape again in the 11th. Taking over for Jose Valverde, Ryan Perry gave up three consecutive hits to the first three Rangers batters he faced and loaded the bases.
With no way to pitch around Nelson Cruz — who tied the game at 3-3 in the seventh with a home run off Max Scherzer — Perry hung a slider inside on a 1-2 count. Cruz obviously likes the ball inside, having turned on a high inside fastball for his homer off Scherzer. And he didn’t miss this pitch, either. Cruz teed off on the slider and launched into the left-field seats for a walkoff grand slam.
Perhaps the Tigers would have pitched around Cruz, however, had Andy Dirks not whiffed on catching a line drive by Mike Napoli into shallow right field. Both Dirks and Austin Jackson closed in on the ball, and perhaps fear of a collision (or waiting for someone to call for the play) prevented each outfielder to slow down just a step.
But the ball sailed just past Dirks’ outstretched glove to fall for a base hit. And had the ball not hit Austin Jackson’s ankle, it probably would’ve rolled to the wall and driven in the game-winning run.
As they travel back to Detroit for Tuesday’s Game 3 at Comerica Park, the Tigers can point to two things that may have prevented them from winning the game before it went to extra innings.
First, Detroit squandered big scoring opportunities in the first two innings.
In the first inning, Jackson and Ramon Santiago both reached base, giving Detroit two runners on with no outs. But a popout by Delmon Young, followed by two consecutive groundouts by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, prevented the Tigers from capitalizing.
In the second, the Tigers had the bases loaded with two outs, due to three walks by Holland. But Santiago hit into a fielder’s choice, again wasting another chance to put runs on the board.
But in the ninth, third base coach Gene Lamont made a decision that could end up haunting the Tigers throughout the offseason. Santiago reached base on a bloop single. After Texas brought in lefty Mike Gonzalez to face Don Kelly, Kelly doubled down the right-field line. But instead of waving Santiago around third to try and score, third base coach Gene Lamont held him up.
Would Santiago have scored? We’ll never know. Though it sure looked like he had a great chance. And after Lamont send dozens of baserunners home during the regular season, only to see them gunned down at the plate, he chose an interesting time to play it safe.
It’s not the reason Detroit lost the game, but it’s one reason and deserves some heavy scrutiny.
That leaves the Tigers down 0-2 in the ALCS as they head back to Detroit for games on Tuesday and Wednesday. First pitch for Tuesday’s game is set for 8:05 p.m. ET. Doug Fister starts for Detroit, while Colby Lewis gets the nod for the Rangers.