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Tigers on Rondon's blown save: Good call, bad spot

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Houston — Bruce Rondon threw a high, 98-mph fastball on a 1-1 count right by the Astros’ Preston Tucker, who was leading off the ninth inning with the Tigers trying to close out a 1-0 victory.

It appeared that Rondon then shook off catcher James McCann before the next pitch — which was a 100 mph fastball down in the zone that Tucker turned on and slammed 421 feet into the bullpen in left-center to tie the score, 1-1.

“No, we were on the same page there,” McCann said. “He made a fake shake; we were on the same page. We wanted it up in the zone again. He couldn’t catch up to the last one. He just missed his spot.”

For Rondon, the Tigers newly-minted closer, it was his first blown save.

“For a closer in a one-run game, there is an extremely small margin for error,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I don’t have a problem with the pitch selection. That wasn’t a bad pitch, it was just in the wrong location.”

Ausmus said Rondon had essentially two choices with the 1-2 pitch. He could have gone up in the zone with the fastball or down in the dirt with a slider — both were likely to get a positive result.

“I don’t question the choice,” he said. “He just didn’t get it where he wanted.”

Rondon hadn’t allowed a run in his last six outings. He showed some mental toughness Saturday, too, closing out the ninth with a pair of strikeouts.

“I’m not worried about this one outing,” Ausmus said. “One pitch in the wrong location, one swing of the bat — doesn’t really change anything.”

Barring some sort of physical ailment, Rondon will close again on Sunday.

Replay flap

Astros manager A.J. Hinch was ejected from the game in the fifth inning after arguing with home plate umpire and crew chief Bill Miller after a replay review changed a call that allowed Anthony Gose to score the first run of the game.

With Gose on second with two outs, Ian Kinsler hit a sinking liner to left that Tucker made a diving play on. It was originally ruled a catch, but Ausmus challenged and won.

Replays showed clearly that Tucker lost control of the ball on his dive. The replay umpire in New York awarded Gose home plate.

This is where Hinch got upset. He acknowledged that the call was correct, that the ball was trapped and Gose was correctly awarded home. What he wanted was an explanation of how the replay umpire in New York came to the decision that Gose should score on the play.

“What are we interpreting?” Hinch said. “I know we are not allowed to argue a replay, but I think I should be able to get an explanation.”

On pinch-runners

Ausmus was trying to squeeze every run he could out of the three-run uprising in the 11th inning. That’s why he used Rajai Davis to pinch-run for Miguel Cabrera at third base and Jefry Marte to run for Victor Martinez at second.

Both of those pinch-runners scored easily on hits by J.D. Martinez and Tyler Collins. But Ausmus was taking no chances.

“Raj could score on a sacrifice fly,” Ausmus said. “You don’t want to take those guys out of the game but every run is critical in an extra-inning game. The difference between a one-run lead and a two-run lead is huge. The difference between a two-run lead and three-run lead is enormous.

“I felt Raj could score more easily on a lot of plays that Miggy couldn’t, same for Marte.”