Cleveland — Baserunning gaffes and gopher balls. They’ve been two ruinous and recurring traits in this lost season for the Tigers and they reared their ugly heads Thursday night in an aggravating 7-5 loss to the Indians.
After the Tigers had tied the game 5-5 in the eighth, Michael Brantley untied it with a two-out, two-run home run off reliever Blaine Hardy. It was his second homer of the game.
Hardy froze Brantley with a 2-2 curveball but didn’t get the strike call from umpire Ed Hickox.
“It was close,” Hardy said of the 2-2 pitch. “I made a good pitch. That’s one thing with a curveball, the strike zone varies from umpire to umpire. Some will give you that, some will call it up. It was on the corner, too, and that probably didn’t help. If I leave it over the plate, it has a better chance of getting hit but it also has a better chance of being called a strike.”
The next pitch, a change-up, caught too much of the plate and Brantley knocked it over the wall in right field.
“That was the one pitch I hadn’t thrown him yet,” Hardy said. “I figured I’d sneak it by him. He thought otherwise.”
It was just the second homer allowed by the Hardy this season, but the third one the Tigers allowed Thursday. That brings their major league-leading total to 173 on the season. They have allowed at least one homer in 91 games and multiple homers in 50.
As for the baserunning, the Tigers had two runners thrown out at the plate — bringing their league-leading total in that department to 23.
“I’m not as concerned about the runners getting thrown out at the plate, it means we have runners on base,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I am more concerned about giving up home runs.”
Having two runs canceled at home plate Thursday, though, both gunned down by third baseman turned outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, was critical. And a little crazy.
In the second inning, the Tigers managed to score a run and make two outs on the same play.
With one out, James McCann walked and Andrew Romine singled him to second. Anthony Gose followed with a single to right field that scored McCann and sent Romine scampering to third.
Gose got greedy, though, took a wide turn around first and got in a rundown between first and second. After a couple of throws, Romine broke for home. Chisenhall, the right fielder, who had joined the run down, tagged Gose and fired home.
Romine was originally called safe, but the call was overturned after a video review. Score the play 9-3-6-4-9-2.
“The throw from right field was low enough to where it could be easily cut,” Ausmus said. “Anthony should’ve realized that and stopped. Romine did the right thing (by trying to score).”
Ausmus said he and assistant coach Matt Martin both looked at the replay to see if Yan Gomes had illegally blocked the plate. They could have challenged that.
“If it had a legitimate chance of being changed you risk (a challenge) because it’s a run,” Ausmus said. “But Matt didn’t think it was and I looked between innings. He made the right call. I don’t see how that would have gotten overturned.”
After they fell behind 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run double by Giovanny Urshela, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. They chased starter Danny Salazar after he uncorked a wild pitch that allowed McCann to score from third.
Rajai Davis popped out against reliever Bryan Shaw, but Ian Kinsler drilled a single to right center — the 1,500th hit of his career. Romine scored to tie the game, but Gose was thrown out at the plate by Chisenhall.
“I didn’t even think there would be a play at home with Gose’s speed,” Ausmus said. “Give Chisenhall credit for making a good throw.”
Miguel Cabrera was lurking on deck.
Brantley untied it in two pitches — leading off the bottom of the seventh with his 14th homer of the season off starter Alfredo Simon. Chisenhall singled, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Gomes.
Again, the Tigers fought back. Nick Castellanos’ double scored J.D. Martinez and with two outs, off reliever Cody Allen, Romine punched his third hit of the game to the left side, scoring Victor Martinez to make it 5-5.
“We fought,” McCann said. “We come out to win. We’re not going to roll over by any means. But we just weren't able to get it done tonight.”