Houston – Manager Brad Ausmus credited coach Matt Martin.
“That’s all Matt Martin, sitting in the booth,” Ausmus said.
Martin passed the credit to video operations assistant August Sandri.
“That’s August,” Martin said. “He’s the one who knows how to operate the thing. He is really good at it.”
Nobody wants the credit? Fine. But the Tigers’ were on the money with video reviews Saturday night. They made two successful challenges in the 5-3 win against the Astros. Both times Martin and Sandri reacted quickly to get calls overturned.
“Yesterday was quick because they were obvious,” Ausmus said. “It’s not always quick.”
In the third inning, Jose Altuve led off with a walk. Justin Verlander made a quick pickoff throw to first and Altuve was initially called safe by umpire Rob Drake. First baseman Miguel Cabrera wasn’t sure he’d applied the tag in time and didn’t react to the call.
Martin and Sandri did, though. It was clear Altuve was out, and, after just a 42-second review, the call was overturned. It was a big play because the next two hitters reached base against Verlander and he was able to get out of the jam.
“Justin did a good time buying us time,” Martin said. “A lot of times you are at the mercy of the camera. There was a play the other day (against the Pirates) that might’ve been challenge-able, but they didn’t have a clear view of it.”
In the sixth inning, Jose Iglesias was called out trying to steal second base by umpire Carlos Torres. Iglesias immediately waived to the dugout for a review and Martin was already on it. It took 58 seconds to overturn that one.
“The key is getting the best angle to look at right away,” Ausmus said. “This is their third year doing it.”
Sandri sits in a room with two large screens. He and Martin closely watch every pitch. Sandri knows how to quickly navigate through all the different camera angles and can put a couple up on the screen simultaneously.
Martin will relay their findings to bench coach Gene Lamont in the dugout, who then signals Ausmus.
“Sometimes you get lucky, or unlucky, especially when they have the super slow-motion camera,” Martin said. “With that you can really tell. But if they don’t have it, sometimes you can’t really tell. But August does a really good job with that.”
The Tigers hit into more double plays than any team in baseball last season (152). This year, so far, they are among the league leaders in turning them.
They turned five double plays in two games against the Astros in this series and they have turned at least one in nine straight this season – which is the club’s longest streak since 2008.
The 17 double plays turned this season is second in the American League.
“Nick (Castellanos, third baseman) has worked extremely hard at it,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler, whose quick pivots at second base have been vital. “It’s something he’s really wanted to improve on, and he has. Me and Iggy (shortstop Jose Iglesias) turn double plays every day.
“It’s something we both work hard at to make sure we’re in the same rhythm, that we know where the ball is coming from and how we want to get those plays turned.”
It’s not a new phenomenon. The Tigers turned 165 double plays last year – fifth in baseball, second in the American League.
“Jose is constantly giving me advice and I am constantly giving him advice,” Kinsler said. “If we don’t get one done, how could we have possibly gotten that play turned? We are constantly making adjustments and trying to figure out a better way to get a double play.
“As we’ve seen, those can be inning-changers, and game-changers.”
Close to milestone
Closer Francisco Rodriguez earned his 389th career save Saturday. He is the active saves leader and he is one save shy of tying Dennis Eckersley for sixth place all-time.