Houston — The Tigers’ baserunning foibles are just about on manager Brad Ausmus’ last nerve.
“The baserunning wasn’t very good tonight,” he said after the Tigers’ otherwise-impressive 5-3 win over the Houston Astros. “Luckily it didn’t cost us a game. It was something that was stressed in spring training and right now I’m just going to consider tonight’s baserunning an off night.
“Hopefully it gets better starting tomorrow.”
It was a case, perhaps, of twice bitten and once shy.
The Tigers were aggressive twice on the bases in this series and got burned.
In the first inning Friday, Ian Kinsler was thrown out at third by center fielder Carlos Gomez with one out. The Tigers never got another runner past second and lost 1-0.
On Saturday, Nick Castellanos tried to stretch a double into a triple in the second inning and was thrown out by shortstop Carlos Correa, who took the relay from left fielder Colby Rasmus. The Tigers wound up hitting three doubles in that inning and scoring only once.
“Quite frankly, tonight it was just bad reads,” Ausmus said. “Baserunning is a little bit instinctual. You have to be able to read what’s happening in front of you. And we made mistakes in reading them.”
But then in the fifth inning, down 3-2, Justin Upton and third-base coach Dave Clark played it safe. That didn’t work, either.
Upton reached on an error by first baseman Tyler White. It was more of an equipment malfunction. The throw from third ripped through the webbing on White’s glove. Miguel Cabrera followed with a double down the right-field line.
The throw from right fielder George Springer went to second base, but Upton had already put on the brakes at third.
“Upton thought Springer was going to catch it,” Ausmus said. “He’d been playing close to the line the whole series. Upton froze thinking he was going to catch it. Once he froze, he wasn’t going to score.
“It looks easy when you are watching it, when you are standing on the bases, it’s not easy.”
Still, Ausmus sounded like a manager whose patience in this regard was running out.
Strange play in the eighth inning.
With runners on first and third, Upton took a pitch high and tight from Will Harris. Home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook initially ruled it a ball. But catcher Jason Castro immediately turned to Holbrook and said the ball hit off Upton’s bat.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch started to come out of the dugout but Upton waived him back. He owned up, telling Holbrook that it did indeed hit his bat.
So, strike one.
But his honesty went unrewarded. Upton was called out on a close pitch for strike three.
The Tigers now have turned a double play in all 10 games this season, their longest streak since 2008. They have turned 17 double plays this season.