Set points: Ausmus calls his shot and misses
Brad Ausmus went for it and lost.
Not the replay challenge. The pinch-runner.
It’s a move he’s admittedly reluctant to do, pinch-running for Miguel Cabrera and risking the loss of his best hitter in extra innings. Yet as Cabrera tossed his bat towards the dugout and trotted to first base on his leadoff walk in the ninth, it’s a move Ausmus was willing to make.
He had done it in the past. He ran Ezequiel Carrera for Cabrera in the ninth inning last Sept. 16 at Minnesota in what was then a 2-0 deficit, Cabrera representing the tying run. J.D. Martinez’s homer off Glen Perkins put Detroit in front before the Twins scored twice off Joe Nathan in the bottom of the inning to win it. He did something similar Sept. 2 after Cabrera singled, and J.D. Martinez homered there, too.
At that point, however, Cabrera was running on a hobbled ankle. He has had no such problems lately.
“You don’t want to remove your best hitter from the lineup,” Brad Ausmus said, “but it’s the bottom of the ninth. Raj is a significantly faster runner than Miggy, so you hope you can win it right there with Raj. It didn’t work out this time, but to me it’s a move you have to make at that point in the game.”
Davis had been warming his legs up in the Tigers dugout since well before the game resumed from its 1-hour, 43-minute rain delay, so Ausmus seemingly had the move in mind. Davis took first base with a perfect 6-for-6 record stealing bases against the Royals and catcher Salvador Perez since joining the Tigers last year. Perez hasn’t thrown out Davis since July 3, 2012.
Davis had the green light, but didn’t go on either of the first two pitches from Jason Frasor before Victor Martinez singled through the left side against the infield shift. Once Davis got to second base, he got the stop sign.
“Once he was at second with Victor at first, it becomes a little more difficult to steal,” Ausmus said. “First of all, it’s a little more difficult to steal third. But secondly, if he gets caught and Victor goes as well, now you end up with Victor on second, who probably can’t score on a single. I just felt like Raj could score on a single, he’s in scoring position, so at that point I held him up, hoping for a single.”
He didn’t get it. Jason Frasor retired Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez on popouts. Davis did get to third when Nick Castellanos drew a two-out walk, but Frasor retired James McCann to send the game into extra innings.
Perez took over at first base batting in Cabrera’s spot, which was due up fourth in the 10th inning. Andrew Romine’s single and back-to-back walks from Greg Holland to Anthony Gose and Ian Kinsler made it a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity.
Perez was vastly different protection in the lineup for Kinsler. However, Ausmus had Kinsler trying to bunt the runners over.
“We’re down one run. It’s first and second,” Ausmus said. “If he gets the bunt down, the winning run is now in scoring position.”
It was a bizarre scene, Kinsler trying to lay down a bunt, Holland not throwing him enough strikes to try, instead walking him on five pitches. Intent or not, it set up an out at every base for Perez, whose ground ball to third thus produced a crushing double play, and a rubber-game victory for Kansas City to hold onto the division lead and end a closely played series.
What went right: Shane Greene shook off his recent doldrums and delivered the kind of outing that reminded people how he can quiet a lineup without a high-strikeout performance. His eight innings of one-run ball Sunday including 15 consecutive batters retired from the second inning through the sixth, and 10 consecutive groundouts. “Just threw strikes, changed speeds,” Greene said. “They swing early and often, and I knew that going into it. So I knew if I made my pitches, I could be out there for a long time.” … Also, the Tigers running game gave Salvador Perez fits.
What went wrong: After seemingly settling into his old form for a couple starts, Anibal Sanchez struggled once again, this time against an aggressive-hitting Royals lineup. So did David Price, who gave up a career-high 13 hits to Kansas City before a slight hamstring strain pretty well knocked him out of Friday’s series opener.