Leyland takes blame for one decision, defends another
The Tigers rallied in the seventh and eighth innings to pull out their third straight win overall and their eighth straight over the Twins, now back-to-back late-inning losers. In that light, it’s hard to second-guess too much.
But if Jim Leyland was doing it after the game, everyone else can, too.
“I should’ve brought [in Charlie] Furbush for [pitching to] Morneau,” Leyland lamented after the game. “That was dumb on my part. I thought Max [Scherzer] was fine. He was throwing the ball 95 that inning. But it was a little late in the game, [Morneau] hadn’t seen Furbush yet.
“I mean, it was set up perfect, and I blew it. It was my fault. Nobody’s fault but mine. And the guys picked me up tonight. That’s a good feeling. They picked the manager up. It was a bad decision.”
The main concern over inserting Furbush there was a pretty shrewd move by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire in mixing up his lineup. By putting Michael Cuddyer in the cleanup spot between Morneau and Jim Thome, Gardenhire avoided having two left-handed hitters in a row against a team that has three left-handed relievers. The Tigers have lefties in abundance, but they were a man down with closer Jose Valverde off.
Short-handed, Leyland didn’t want to go lefty-righty-lefty to get through that stretch, so he stuck with Scherzer. Conceivably, Scherzer could’ve pitched around Morneau with first base open and opted to face Cuddyer. Once he put Morneau in an 0-2 count, that wasn’t happening.
He was nowhere near the strike zone on his next three pitches as he tried to get Morneau to chase. Morneau didn’t swing until he got to a full count, and Scherzer left a fastball over the plate that was supposed to be down and in, where catcher Victor Martinez placed his mitt.
“I left it over the middle,” Scherzer said. “Obviously he’s a good enough hitter where he’s going to be able to hit it to the seats. That’s the frustrating part for me, knowing I had a shot to get out of that inning — especially when I was up 0-2 on him — and he ends up hitting a home run.”
Leyland finally went to Furbush to face Thome, whom he retired.
The other decision came way earlier, when he opted to put Ryan Raburn back in left field after telling him a few days earlier that he was the regular second baseman. While no one said the move caught Raburn by surprise, it was clear that he had focused most of his efforts on second base since this past weekend.
Once he stepped back into left field, he arguably looked more like a second baseman. An odd route to Danny Valencia’s second-inning double in the gap left Raburn chasing the ball towards the fence. An inning later, Matt Tolbert hit a fly ball that sailed over Raburn’s head once he broke in on it.
Leyland said Raburn would “probably” start back at second base on Saturday. But Leyland also came to his defense as an outfielder.
“I don’t know why he’s taking heat,” Leyland said. “The ball fooled him a little bit. The wind was blowing. The ball was hit a little better than he thought. The wind took it. It sailed on him and went over his head. He’s played good in left field this year.”
Why start Raburn in left and Brennan Boesch at DH? In that case, Leyland was looking ahead to the late innings. If he put Raburn in left field and Boesch at DH, he could shift Raburn back to second base late in the game, when he might use Andy Dirks as a pinch-hitter for Worth. Turns out that was wasn’t needed, and Don Kelly replaced Raburn for defensive purposes.