Missed connection sent Tigers down path
Justin Upton seemingly threw Shane Greene a lifeline with his second-inning throw from left field. With one hop, it became an anchor.
In the scorebook, it goes down as an RBI single from Royals ninth hitter Jarrod Dyson, who advanced to second on the non-errant throw. Yet it was a play that effectively turned the game in an eventual 8-6 Tigers loss to open a three-game divisional clash at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals, never shy about testing defenses with their baserunning, made it clear from the outset they would test Upton, whose nine assists last season were a career high. The first to test was slow-footed Kendrys Morales, who got the wave home from third-base coach Mike Jirschele as Upton charged at Dyson’s liner into left. Upton’s throw seemingly had him passing that test until it hit ground.
At first glance, it looked like a whiff on the part of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The throw not only beat Morales home, it had enough arc on it that Morales couldn’t block Saltalamacchia’s view of it. A slow-motion replay from one angle, though, showed the ball bouncing higher than the angle would suggest, while also angling towards behind home plate.
“It definitely took a weird hop,” Saltalamacchia said afterward. “You’re taught to stay down, stay low, and it’s like it hit the dirt and bounced over my head. Obviously you want to make that play, and nine times out of 10 you do, so I’m frustrated I wasn’t able to kind of grab onto it.”
Said manager Brad Ausmus: “It kind of was a short hop, and it looked like it hopped up. I don’t know if it skipped on the dirt, but it obviously caught Salty by surprise the way it hopped up.”
Morales scored. More importantly, the inning continued with two outs for Tiger killer Alcides Escobar, who drove in two more runs to turn an opening run into a three-run rally and a clear advantage early. Dyson, who reached second on Upton’s first throw, tested Upton on Escobar’s hit and drew a much less accurate throw. Greene, with or without the extra pitches, struggled to thrwo strikes with the fastball and lasted 4 1/3 innings.
Saltalamacchia made up the run differential with his three-run homer in the seventh inning.