Detroit — There were more layers to this game than a St. Andrews bunker, but when all was said and done, everyone wanted to know one thing.
Why did Brad Ausmus pinch-run for Victor Martinez in the ninth inning of a tie game, with two outs and the odds heavily suggesting the Tigers wouldn't score that inning anyway?
"The guy at the plate (Yoenis Cespedes) is second or third (third) in the league in doubles," Ausmus said. "I'd be upset with myself if he did hit a double and we don't score."
Cespedes didn't hit a double, the Tigers didn't score and they lost to the White Sox, 8-7, in 10 innings — when Josh Wilson, the man who pinch-ran for Martinez an inning earlier, struck out with the bases loaded to end it.
The White Sox walked Miguel Cabrera to load the bases, knowing Wilson, not Martinez, was due.
Martinez hit a two-out single in the ninth off Zach Duke (3-2) — his third hit of the day, on Victor Martinez Bobblehead Day, of all days — and quickly was replaced by Wilson. Martinez never has run well, and is coming off injury. Wilson runs just fine.
"There's a better chance that Wilson scores than Victor," Ausmus said. "And even if Cespedes hits a single, now you ABSOLUTELY have to pinch-run for him at second. I just felt like Cespedes, one of the league leaders in doubles, he's got as good a chance as anyone."
Martinez, when asked after the loss about having to sit on the bench only to watch his spot in the batting order come up with the game on the line, said, "No comment."
He was then asked if he was surprised Ausmus pulled him in the ninth.
Martinez then backed up his manager.
"We're trying to win ballgames," Martinez said. "You never know. Maybe Cespedes hits a ball in the gap and I wasn't going to be able to score. Then it's gonna come a lot of you guys double-guessing: 'Why didn't they take him out?'"
The Martinez decision was a big one, but the Tigers had other opportunities to win.
In fact, for a team that trailed from the first batter of the game — White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton laced a homer off Alfredo Simon to start things — they, oddly, felt in control.
But aside from scoring two runs in the first (Ian Kinsler's second homer of the year) and two more in the fifth (J.D. Martinez's 18th homer of the year), the Tigers rarely took advantage of their chances. The Tigers had two on in the second, two on in the third, a lead-off triple in the fourth, and two singles to start the sixth, and they didn't score in any of the frames.
In the fourth, Nick Castellanos, trying to regain total control of the starting third-base job, led off with a triple. But two batters later, he was thrown out at home by 10 feet on Jose Iglesias' grounder to second base.
Ausmus was seen huddling with Castellanos in the dugout after the play.
"Nick wasn't supposed to go," Ausmus said. "At that time, he should've stayed."
And in the sixth, Iglesias led off with a single and Rajai Davis followed with an infield single.
Then, down a run, Ausmus ordered Kinsler to bunt.
The call backfired as Kinsler popped it up, and a pitch later, Cabrera grounded into an inning-ending double play. The Tigers went from two on and nobody out to out of the inning.
"I gave him the bunt. (Jake) Petricka is a groundball guy, hits into a lot of double plays," Ausmus said. "If we can get second and third, if they choose to pitch to Miggy, great. If they don't, I don't mind Victor hitting there either."
On the play, Kinsler said, "I do what he says. I tried to execute, I didn't execute. I should be able to get a bunt down."
The Tigers finally tied it in the eighth, after Castellanos led off with a double, pinch-runner Andrew Romine moved to third on the wild pitch by Zach Putnam (Ann Arbor Pioneer), and Iglesias drove a deep fly ball to left for the sacrifice fly. The ball looked like it had a chance, and Iglesias' bat flip suggested it had a chance, but it wasn't enough.
Still, it was enough to tie a game in which Tigers starter Alfredo Simon wasn't sharp — for a second consecutive outing. After the homer to Eaton, he gave up an RBI double to Avisail Garcia and a two-run double to Adam LaRoche, the latter on which Davis got turned around in center.
Tied in the 10th, Joba Chamberlain (0-2) was wild, walking a batter, hitting a batter and then giving up an infield single. With two outs, and after a conversation with Bryan Holaday, he went with slider to Carlos Sanchez, who ripped it for a bases-clearing triple and an 8-5 lead. That one swing sent much of the crowd of 40,355 to the exits.
They missed some drama, as the Tigers made another comeback bid in the bottom of the 10th off White Sox closer David Robertson, who allowed a one-out single to Romine, a walk to Anthony Gose and a single to Iglesias.
Holaday then laced a two-run single to bring Detroit within a run, but Kinsler popped up — and White Sox manager Robin Ventura made the obvious move, giving Cabrera a free pass and pitching to light-hitting Wilson, who had pinch-run for Victor Martinez.
"It's easy to judge from the outside," Victor Martinez said. "You know what, we're trying to win ballgames.
"I think that was the best option."