Game 6: Why Victor Martinez tried to steal 2nd
There were plenty of decisions and events that went into Tuesday’s Tigers loss, from Kenley Jansen’s move not to pitch around Miguel Cabrera to Brad Ausmus’ move to try to get a fourth out from Joba Chamberlain in the 10th inning, then turn to Phil Coke against two left-handed hitters, including one that was previous 3-for-6 against him and produced the walkoff double. Arguably the most interesting one, however, came on the basepaths.
Victor Martinez extended the game with his two-out, ninth-inning single off Jansen to score Ian Kinsler. Just three pitches later, however, he was thrown out trying to steal second base, ending the rally with Austin Jackson left standing at the plate in a tie game and Jansen just shy of 20 pitches thrown.
The decision to go, Brad Ausmus said, came from Martinez and first-base coach Omar Vizquel working in tandem.
“Victor and Omar were in cahoots, just in terms of finding something they could take advantage of from the pitcher,” Ausmus said. “And it’s not really a bad play, because if he’s out, you’ve got [Austin] Jackson leading off the next inning.”
That’s an arrangement that has been in place since the season began, in an effort to utilize Vizquel’s read on pitchers.
“I’ve given Omar, if he sees something that he can take advantage of, he’s got the capability of talking to the runner, telling him what he sees,” Ausmus said. “It actually was a close play. And we all know Victor, he’s not known for his speed. If he ends up getting there, now with a single, it’s the winning run. …
“Omar does a really good job watching these pitchers, picking up on things they do when they throw over or they throw home. It was a good effort.”
To see a way to swipe a base off a closer certainly isn’t new. Remember, it’s how teams were able to turn a baserunner into a run off former Tigers closer Jose Valverde with sometimes only one base hit, making the most of their limited opportunities.
The Tigers have been aggressive trying to swipe bases so far, carrying over the mentality they built during Spring Training. Even so, Tuesday marked the first time Detroit had even attempted to steal a base in the late innings of a close game — seventh inning or later with either a one-run game, tie score, or the tying run at least on deck, according to baseball-reference.com.
Given the stuff Jansen was throwing — Ausmus and others said it’s the hardest they’ve seen him throw — it might have been worth the chance to get Martinez into position to score on just a Jackson single. In this case, given how hard Jansen was throwing to the plate, it didn’t work.
Play of the game: Hard not to go with Carl Crawford’s walkoff double here, especially given how sharply it sliced towards the left-field line and past left fielder Rajai Davis once it bounced. Davis was playing closer towards the gap, while Crawford ended up with an opposite-field game-winner.
“It had a little fade to it,” Davis said. “I guess it was hit solid. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to skip like that, that much.”
Biggest out: Though Victor Martinez still tied the game immediately after Jansen struck out Miguel Cabrera, logic says Cabrera had an opportunity to get much more than a single if he connected with any of Jansen’s fastballs. He didn’t, ending a day in which he went hitless without getting the ball out of the infield.
Strategy session: With three lefty relievers available, Ausmus used Ian Krol for the left-handed hitters in the top half of the Dodgers order in the eighth inning, then went to Phil Coke once the lineup reset in the 10th. Drew Smyly, Ausmus said, was ready to face Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Either if need be, but then stay in for potential long relief.
Line of the day: Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-4 with nothing hit out of the infield. It’s actually the second time he did that this year, having done the same against Kansas City’s Jason Vargas in the second game of the season.
Stat of the day: The Tigers and Dodgers combined to go 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position, leaving 10 men on base.
Print it: “We’ve stayed in touch since I played here. We’d often have dinner together or exchange barbs in texts. He’s one of the best people I’ve met in the game, and I consider him a good friend. Although, if he doesn’t get me tomorrow’s starting pitcher soon, I’m not going to consider him a good friend.” — Ausmus on Dodgers manager Don Mattingly