Delving deeper into machinations of Tigers’ wild loss

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
J.B. Shuck scores on a walk-off RBI single by Adam Eaton in the 12th inning Monday night.

Chicago – So much gets overlooked or uncommented on in a game as chaotic and dramatic as the Tigers’ 12-inning, 10-9 loss to the White Sox Monday.

You know by now the larger details: The Tigers rocked Chicago starter James Shields but frittered away a 7-0 lead.

Closer Francisco Rodriguez took a 9-7 lead into the ninth and was within a strike of his 20th consecutive save. Didn’t get it. Former Tiger Avisail Garcia ripped a 3-2 pitch into center to tie the game and in the bottom of the 12th, nemesis Adam Eaton knocked a walk-off single through a drawn-in infield.

It was an understandably subdued Tigers clubhouse afterward.

“What are you going to do?” Ian Kinsler said. “There’s another team playing over there. They played well. We played well. We were just on the wrong side of it.”

Results aside, it was a fascinating ballgame.

Start with the 12th inning. J.D. Martinez, who had three hits and knocked in a pair, came within a foot or two of giving the Tigers another two-run lead. He hit a high, arching fly ball to left. Melky Cabrera caught it with his back against the wall.

"Thought you had it," a reporter said to Martinez after.

“So did I,” he said.

White Sox J.B. Shuck led off the bottom of the 12th with a double just inside the bag down the right-field line. First baseman Miguel Cabrera was playing off the line, not in a no-doubles alignment – which is a debatable issue around the big leagues.

'Not a great night': Tigers blow 7-0 lead, lose in 12

Some teams will play the corner infielders on the line and the outfielders deep – preventing extra-base hits – late in tie games or in extra innings. Others, like manager Brad Ausmus, are opposed.

“You don’t play no-doubles in a tie game in extra innings,” he said. “You play no-doubles and you are kind of conceding a single and you don’t want the leadoff hitter to get on.”

With all the spray charts and data on hitters available, Shuck was positioned according to where he most often hits the ball – up the middle. But Anibal Sanchez, up in the count 1-2, threw him two straight off-speed pitches – which are more conducive to being pulled – and Shuck yanked it down the line and past a diving Cabrera.

He was sacrificed to third, setting the table for Eaton, who had already tormented the Tigers with three hits and two runs. Ausmus was asked if he considered walking him and Cabrera to load the bases and set up a force at the plate.

“That would have brought (Jose) Abreu to the plate,” he said. “I am not a big fan of facing Abreu with the bases loaded.”

Hard to argue the point. Abreu had already homered, singled and knocked in three runs.

Sanchez took the loss, but his performance was encouraging. He stranded two runners in the 10th, blowing two 95-mph fastballs by Todd Frazier and he worked a clean 11th.

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* The Tigers worked the squeeze bunt to perfection in the top of the ninth. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia on third and one out, Ausmus waited until Jose Iglesias had a 2-1 count before putting it on.

Iglesias bunted it firm between the pitcher and first base. Reliever Nate Jones had no play other than to go to first.

“It’s late in the game and every run is enormous,” said Ausmus, who doesn't much fancy the squeeze play. “Every add-on run is enormous.”

That Saltalamacchia was on the third was a gift from the White Sox. His sinking liner got past Cabrera in left. Saltalamacchia, perhaps pressing his luck, rumbled all the way to third. Cabrera’s throw was a laser and it easily beat Saltalamacchia to the base.

But third baseman Frazier applied the tag to the chest and Saltalamacchia’s hand, as was determined by video replay, got to the bag first.

“Cabrera’s throw was perfect,” Ausmus said. “If throw wasn’t where it was, he would have been there easy. That said, you don’t want the first out of the inning to be at third base.”

* Miguel Cabrera may have a beef with the White Sox’s official scorer. He lashed a double to right-center in the first that scored Cameron Maybin from first. The ball was bobbled in the outfield, an error, which allowed Cabrera to go to third. But, unless he fell down or something, Maybin was scoring with or without the bobble. Yet, no RBI was given.

* Nick Castellanos may have finally earned the right to stay on the field late in close games. He played all 12 innings, though that was more because Mike Aviles and Andrew Romine had to be used in right field because J.D. Martinez was the designated hitter.

Still, Castellanos made three stellar plays. The best was a diving stab of a hard-hit ball by Frazier leading off the seventh. He’s as comfortable and confident in the field as he’s ever been.

Iglesias had a web gem, too. He made a brilliant play up the middle and had to throw quickly to get speedy Tim Anderson to close the eighth.

* The Tigers scored nine runs, so it’s hard to disparage the offense. But ...

The Tigers left 14 runners on base. Aviles stranded nine by himself.

They scored seven runs in the first three innings off Shields, and still left a runner at third in the first, a runner at second in the second, a runner at third in the third and the bases loaded in the fourth.

The White Sox walked 11 Tigers batters and not one of them scored.

“We scored nine runs, come on,” Ausmus said. “That should be enough.”

Indeed it should.

Some odds and ends:

Ian Kinsler hit Shields’ second pitch of the game into the seats in left. It was his third homer in three games and the 34th leadoff shot of his career. That’s the ninth most in MLB history, tied with Ray Durham and Devon White.

… Kinsler is also the fifth Tiger since 1913 to score a run in 40 of the first 63 games of a season.

… J.D. Martinez is raking, hitting .474 with five doubles and nine RBIs in the last 10 games – all since moving out of the No. 2 spot in the order. He’s had multiple hits in five straight games.

… Iglesias has an 11-game hitting streak.

…. After the game, the Tigers optioned right-handed pitcher Bobby Parnell to Toledo and recalled Buck Farmer.

Twitter @cmccosky