Oakland, Calif. – Everyone, it seemed, agreed.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Ian Kinsler, speaking for the Tigers cast following a weirdo of a play and umpire’s call in Friday night’s game at Oakland Coliseum, where the Tigers whipped the A’s, 4-1.
It happened in the top of the fifth inning, with one out, the Tigers leading, 2-0, and Kinsler standing on third following a leadoff triple.
Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked to put runners at the corners. Up came Victor Martinez, who lofted a pop-up into foul territory, past first base, that A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso snagged with a basket catch and with his back turned to the infield.
Kinsler wisely bluffed a tag and sprint home. Alonso was taking no chances and whipped a throw home to A’s catcher Stephen Vogt.
The ball skipped past Vogt and bounded away as Kinsler bounded home with a run that appeared to put the Tigers ahead, 3-0.
But the ball had glanced against Martinez, who in the opinion of home-plate umpire Joe West had not adequately cleared space for Alonso’s throw.
Martinez’s unintentional interference made Kinsler the victim in a 3-2 double play that led to a common refrain afterward.
Gene Lamont testified, as well, that the play was something “I’ve never seen before.” He met with West to discuss the craziness but came away convinced West had gotten it right.
And, as far as West was concerned, he indeed had – all because the Rules of Baseball are unambiguous.
Martinez didn’t mean to interfere, West conceded, but because he was “participating in the game, he has to avoid the throw.”
“I’ve seen it where they have meant to interfere,” he continued, drawing a distinction that nonetheless didn’t spare Martinez, or Kinsler.
“He (Martinez) was just upset that he popped up. He was not doing anything intentional to interfere with the play.”
But the spirit of the play couldn’t alter the letter of the law.
“It’s the first time I see that,” said Martinez, who had company plenty of company Friday.
There have been suggestions Michael Fulmer might be a stopgap starter. A quick fix while the Tiger wait for Shane Greene and others to heal, at which time Fulmer was perhaps in line for a return to Triple A for further seasoning.
“Well, he’s gonna pitch in five days,” Lamont said after Fulmer had put together another beauty of a start, a three-hit, scoreless stint that lasted 7-2/3 innings and helped the Tigers to a 4-1 victory.
Fulmer is now 4-1. His ERA is at 3.97. He is making fans everywhere, unless, of course, you happen to bat against him.
“A stepping stone?” Lamont asked rhetorically after Fulmer had put away the A’s with a stream of sinking four-seam fastballs.
“I don’t know – seven and two-thirds isn’t bad.”
Fulmer is handling the heady stuff well. Fans might be enjoying a wave of Fulmer Fever.
“I just feel so much more comfortable,” he said. “I just trust everything.”
And, so, increasingly, are the Tigers trusting a 23-year-old rookie.
With need for a roster spot, the Tigers announced after Friday’s game that Steven Moya will return to Triple A Toledo for more regular work he wasn’t going to get with the big-league club.
Moya’s spot will be absorbed by today’s starting pitcher, Matt Boyd, who was called in from Toledo to replace Jordan Zimmermann, who is still out with a groin strain.
“He needs at-bats, and he can’t play center field,” said Lamont, explaining the practical aspects of sending down Moya, who batted .281 in nine games.
“Steve showed very well why he was here. But it’s not easy to come off the bench for a kid like him.”
The Tigers have given Joe Jimenez a promotion everyone knew was coming. Jimenez, 21, and the organization’s top bullpen prospect, has been shipped to Double A Erie after he allowed zero runs in a nearly flawless 17-game stretch at Single A Lakeland.
Jimenez, a right-hander, is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and was devastating for the Flying Tigers: 17-1/3 innings, five hits, 28 strikeouts, and five walks.
The Tigers say nothing of certainty has been diagnosed after Drew VerHagen was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an apparent arm ailment. VerHagen returned to Toledo last week after a series of tough relief appearances for the Tigers.
Tigers broadcaster Kirk Gibson will celebrate in the Bay Area on Saturday as he turns 59. Gibson, of course, first joined the Tigers in 1978 when he was the team’s first-round draft pick.