Aggressive baserunning pays off for Tigers
Detroit — Aggressive baserunning has cut both ways for the Tigers. They have run themselves out of innings this season. But there have also been nights like Friday, when their fearlessness on the base paths forces mistakes and produces runs.
"Going back to last spring training, at times we're going to force the defense's hand," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We're going to force them to make the play."
Third-base coach Dave Clark certainly pushed that envelope in the Tigers' four-run second inning. With the bases loaded and nobody out, with the top of the order lurking, Andrew Romine rolled a single to center.
J.D. Martinez scored easily from third, but Nick Castellanos was just getting to third base when right-fielder Paulo Orlando was picking up the ball. Clark waved Castellanos home. The ball beat Castellanos to the plate by several steps but catcher Salvador Perez didn't come up with the ball cleanly.
Castellanos was able to beat him to the plate with a clever slide.
Later, still with nobody out and Miguel Cabrera on deck, Ian Kinsler singled to right. Again the Tigers tested Orlando's arm. Again, it looked like the throw beat Romine to the plate.
This time Perez caught the ball on the first-base side of the plate and he was slow to apply the tag.
Was early aggressiveness part of the game plan?
"Always," Kinsler said. "That's always the idea — to score early, try to give your pitcher some run support. That always comforts them and makes it a little bit easier to work."
The Tigers' speed and aggression led to the tying run in the seventh, too. Anthony Gose, who had three hits, singled and did what few attempt to do — steal off Perez late in a close game.
"He's done a nice job," Ausmus said. "He's unafraid when he's on the bases and he has the ability because of his speed to distract the pitcher. He's done a nice job at the top of the lineup when he's been in the game."
Perez's throw to second was errant and Gose ended up on third. He scored on a ground out by Victor Martinez.
"Gose and Raj (Davis, who stole a base off Wade Davis and Perez in the eighth), everyone in the building knew they were going to steal and they still got it," Kinsler said. "Those two guys are premier at stealing bases in the game and it's really nice to have them on the team."
Slowly but surely, rookie Angel Nesbitt is getting more responsibility from Ausmus. He was summoned to work the eighth inning of a tie game against division rival Kansas City.
"I was thinking about if he was going to trust me or not," said Nesbitt, who dispatched the Royals in order in the eighth. "But no matter what, I have to throw the ball the same."
Ausmus wouldn't say whether Nesbitt is moving closer to seizing the set-up role.
"We'll see," he said. "Tune in."
Nesbitt pitched his ninth scoreless inning of the season and the fifth in a row.
"He's performed well," Ausmus said. "We've kind of eased him into it. He's new to the big leagues this year and there's always that butterfly period to get through. He seems to have gotten through it pretty quickly and we've tried to ease him into tighter and tighter situations."
Nesbitt said he did feel the pressure of the situation Friday.
"But I have to throw the ball, no matter what the inning is or what the score is," he said. "I was pretty comfortable. I talked to a couple of the guys about that situation. How can I throw, how will I feel? I figured out, I can throw the ball like I (normally) do, no matter what."
Catcher Alex Avila was scratched right before the game. He was hit with a foul ball on his right forearm in the eighth inning in Chicago Thursday.
"He was able to hit, but he wasn't able to throw," Ausmus said. "We took him out. After he hit batting practice he went to throw and he wasn't comfortable throwing."
He will be re-evaluated Saturday.
…The 13 hits given up by David Price was the most he's ever allowed in a start.
…Shortstop Jose Iglesias was held out of the game with groin tightness. He will be evaluated Saturday.