Dissecting a tumultuous Tigers Tuesday

For eight innings, this looked like one of the quickest, least eventful playoff race shutouts the Tigers have suffered in recent memory. Then for about 10 minutes, this looked like another chapter in the book of J.D. Martinez’s heroics, which it arguably still is. Then in the end, it looked like the toughest loss so far this month for this team.

It was also the type of game that left strategic decisions and accompanying questions from the seventh inning on.

The Tigers didn’t have multiple runners on base against Ricky Nolasco until the seventh, when back-to-back two-out singles from Victor and J.D. Martinez put the potential tying run on base. Up came Don Kelly, who started the game to add a left-handed bat against Nolasco (.339 average to left-handed hitters entering Tuesday) but who had hit into a second-inning double play and popped out on the first pitch with a runner in scoring position in the fifth.

Ausmus, with two rookie left-handed hitters on his bench with Steven Moya and Tyler Collins, stuck with Kelly, who drew a 2-0 count before flying out to left. The situation, he said, was too soon for a pinch-hitter.

“It was too early in the game [to pinch-hit],” Ausmus said. “Keep in mind, I started Kelly [to hit] against Nolasco. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense if I’m going to start him against Nolasco then to pinch-hit for him against Nolasco. I wasn’t going to pinch-hit at that time.

“And the truth is, it’s dangerous to take Donnie out of the game because if you get the lead, you need him in the game [for defense].”

Part of that need might have been created by Nick Castellanos’ scratch from the starting lineup with a sore foot. However, Castellanos was available to hit and was on deck to hit for Kelly when J.D. Martinez homered in the ninth.

Moya has been used as a pinch-hitter three times this month. Once was in the ninth inning of the rout they posted at Cleveland Sept. 1. Another was in the eighth inning of a tie game Sept. 4, also in Cleveland. He pinch-hit for Hernan Perez in that situation against Bryan Shaw with two out and nobody on. Then, on Sept. 14 against the Indians at Comerica Park, he pinch-hit for Andrew Romine with runners at first and second, a 3-2 deficit and Scott Atchison pitching.

So Ausmus has used Moya that early before. The only difference in those cases has been that the starting pitcher was out.

Ausmus said he had a pinch-hitter as an option if somebody reached base in the eighth, when the bottom third of the order came to bat.

“We did have guys,” Ausmus said. “If Holaday had gotten on, we may have pinch-hit for Romine. We may have hit-and-run with Romine. There were a couple options.”

Those situations took a back seat when J.D. Martinez hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth. The Tigers had both Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria warming at the time. However, Ausmus said there was no question who would close.

“Soria was coming in if we were tied,” he said. “Joe was coming in if we had the lead.”

A one-out walk to Trevor Plouffe started the Twins rally.

“You don’t want walks obviously,” Ausmus said, “but you’ve got to keep in mind: In a one-run closer situation, with a guy like Trevor Plouffe, who has the ability to drive the ball, you can’t just lay a 3-2 pitch down the middle. If it’s a home run, it ties the game. If it’s a double, it puts a guy in scoring position. So you still have to pitch him carefully. It’s a little bit different than a 3-2 count in the first inning. So you do have to be smart about it.

“Now if it’s a guy without a lot of power, that’s a different story. Plouffe has about as much power as anyone in their lineup.”

Kurt Suzuki did get a pitch to drive into left-center, where Ezequiel Carrera made his attempt at a diving grab.

That drive, and the play on it, turned the inning. A single there puts runners at the corners, or possibly first and second with one out for Eduardo Nunez, and two ground balls either seal the game or send it into extra innings. Instead, the tying run was in, with the winning run on second.

In that case, Carrera’s attempt at heroics set up the extra-base hit they couldn’t afford.

“We’ve actually already spoken to him about it,” Ausmus said. “I just think this is a case where if it happened all over again, he would understand that containing the runner at first as opposed to taking a less than high percentage at a catch, he would’ve probably backed up and just contained the line drive.”

Carrera did not talk after the game.

“We’re human beings,” Ausmus continued. “They’re going to make mistakes out there. I’m sure for a split second, he thought he could catch the ball. It just didn’t work out. But I do think if he could do it all over again, you’d see the proper play.”

Ausmus indicated the result will not lead to a rethinking of the Nathan-Soria roles.

While Soria’s return has given the Tigers depth from the seventh inning on, his lack of a regular role has become conspicuous in situations like the last couple nights, when Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan have both either given up crucial runs or put them on base. He’s a versatile reliever who can pitch well in several different situations, but that versatility means he owns none of them. That said, the struggles in multiple spots mean Ausmus is trying to fill multiple holes with one reliever.

27 Comments

Time to act as the manager and make Soria , the closer. Nathan has thrown everybody under the bus so no chemistry problems,

yes this is so true ,Joe is not good enough to be a closer…period….

The result of this game in no way detracts from JD’s heroics. His HR is every bit as meaningful. KC did us a favor by blowing their game. This could have been a worse loss. Recover today and keep it going.

what a downer, but to be honest nothing can make me forget that comeback homerun – dude is a stud and just keeps hitting them out. Bad play in the outfield, but the walks almost always come back to bite you and with a rookie out there trying to save the game I can’t get too upset about that. I appreciate the effort.

“And the truth is, it’s dangerous to take Donnie out of the game … ” Perez and Suarez or Romine could have played 3b for Kelly. it is not that they would have replaced Brook Robinson. He sounds like Jim Leyland and his reticence to PH.

Why Perez entered to play 3B in the 9th but was unable to play 3b in the 7th?

Lost in the mist, Kinsler reckless running in the first . Everyday , a running mistake

i guess all we know about Soria’s role at this point is he’s the guy in a tie game in the 9th and the closer if Nathan pitched day prior. if injury issue fully resolved, he’s going to eventually end up bumping someone from their usual spot…either Chamberlain or Nathan. don’t see Ausmus making Soria the 7th inning guy just to maintain the status quo at the end of the pen.

“Soria was coming in if we were tied,” he said. “Joe was coming in if we had the lead.”
That says all we need to know. Soria may or may not be the answer, but we know Nathan isn’t.

Here’s the test question: if the situation calls for it, does Nathan close tonight after throwing another 26 pitches last night? I’m trying to stay with you here, Brad. I had hoped a younger manager who had played recently might be a little more creative.

Good question. If Soria gets the opportunity, then you basically have a dual closer situation.

Brad reminds me of a old coach I had 40 yrs ago. It is black or white . No gray area at all and not willing to change at all . Hard to figure him out . Lucky the White Sox came thru to beat Kansas City .

Ironically, Ned Yost went away from his bullpen formula last night, and it blew up in his face.

Before last night’s game, FSD was showing “highlights” from game 163. The Twins folded like a cheap tent when they played NY.
.

I also question playing Hernan at 3rd base. He played 2nd base last year when he came up and played SS in Toledo. All of this so someone could PR for Miguel and it wasn’t even necessary after all. Of course, if he hadn’t PR for Miguel, there would have been an uproar about that.

The way Cabrera has been moving around this series, I think he could’ve handled running there. The fear, I think, is Cabrera making an odd turn or a bad slide and aggravating it.

I was ok with the pinch runner for Miggy – 9th inning, down 2 runs, if there is a gapper we needed the score

in other words, I don’t want Miggy overdoing his running and making some crazy slide, because he would to win a game and he is too important right now

He was the tying run, it was a no brainer to run for him. Somewhat suprised he didn’t try stealing 2B with VMart up.

The run that matter was in the feet of Victor, risking an out with the clean-up hitter goes against The Book

You are so right Rich. No creativity. Mr. Ivy league refuses to think that maybe his decisions could be wrong. Most talented team that has great team leaders and chemistry and should have been the first team to clinch, but he has managed to put his team dangerously close to missing the playoffs. I know someone on here can find out so help me out…does Nathan have the worst closer stats in MLB? Sure other’s may be worse, but are they still their team’s closer? Does their manager continue to not even entertain making a change? Just curious if anyone knows.

By the way, just an observation, but is Ausmus a robot? Very little to no expression, everything “by the book”, no feel for the game, no personality. Totally opposite of the team his is managing. You always hear that good teams take on the personality of their coach. Dare I say he has actually been a chemistry killer at times. Seems like a polar opposite of his team.

Aus-bot 3000?

Ha! Yes!!! I’m using that Evan!

WARNING WARNING: results will not lead to a rethinking of roles!

Read where Joe thought he pitched well or thought he had good stuff or some such delusional ego-centric claptrap.
Brad has to do the right thing here, even if it means questioning his boss’s $10 million directive

aus-bot does not compute

personally, wouldn’t want to be manager of a professional baseball team. all the 2nd guessing from outside sources (sometimes from within) and being asked some variation of the same questions day after day for 6 months. i tip my hat to those who can do it and maintain their sanity.

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