No runs, no playoffs: Tigers’ bid dies quietly
Atlanta – Brad Ausmus gathered the team in the clubhouse following the sudden death of their playoff dreams Sunday.
“I told them I was proud of the way they went about their business,” he said. “It sucks we’re not going to the postseason. That’s what you do all the work in spring training for. That’s your goal and we didn’t attain our goal. In that sense, we fell short.
“But sometimes there is a bigger picture. And the bigger picture for me was how they went about their business and how their performance carried us to the last game of the season.”
It ended cruelly. A team that was built to slug, the Tigers' season died with a 1-0 loss to the Braves, in the last game ever to be played at Turner Field.
How’s that for a kick in the pants?
“It’s not easy, given the circumstances,” said Justin Verlander, who allowed one first-inning run in seven strong innings. “But we really battled through some adversity this year. At the half-way point, a lot of people had written us off and we really battled as a team.
“We all cared about it and we never lost faith and we continued to play. Unfortunately, we were the last team eliminated. That says a lot about our grit and tenacity. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.”
The Tigers were stifled for seven innings by Braves right-hander Julio Teheran. He allowed three singles, allowed one runner to second base and struck out a career-best 12. He had the Tigers flailing at high fastballs from start to finish.
“That’s what he’s known for,” Ian Kinsler said. “A good fastball up in the zone. That’s why he’s an All-Star pitcher. It’s tough to lay off those.”
The 3 p.m. starting time didn’t help, either team. The shadows made it hard to pick up pitches until they spread all the way across the infield in the eighth inning.
“The scouting report said his fastball was 91, 92 mph,” said Miguel Cabrera. “But he was like 95, 94 with movement. And he had a nice tight slider. He was tough to figure out. When you play a game a 3 p.m., you can’t see the ball.”
Between Saturday and Sunday the Tigers stuck out 27 times. The last two hitters of the season – J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton – struck out, Upton without taking a swing.
“Teheran is tough on right-handed hitters and we are a right-handed hitting lineup,” Ausmus said.
Playing without the designated hitter, the Tigers best left-handed bat, Victor Martinez, was not in the lineup. Left-handed hitters have a .756 OPS against Teheran, 174 points better than right-handers.
Martinez struck out in the ninth inning representing the tying run Saturday night. On Sunday, he was summoned in the eighth after Jose Iglesias doubled to start the inning.
“That was our one spot to use Victor,” Ausmus said. “We might not have had a chance to use him in the ninth (with the top of the order due up). The chance of them walking Victor with no outs was slim and if they did, we’d bunt both runners over with Kinsler.
“It was the ideal spot to use him.”
Martinez, like so many others before him, went down swinging at a high fastball well out of the strike zone.
Kinsler followed with a line drive that shortstop Dansby Swanson caught and quickly threw to second to double up Iglesias.
It was the fourth time this season the Tigers have been on the bad side of a 1-0 game. It was the 12th time they’ve been shutout.
“It’s not easy, given the circumstances,” Verlander said. “I was a little out of sync to start the game then I settled down from there. But it was too little too late, I guess. But who would’ve known? It's hard. It’s not an easy one to take.”
Verlander (16-9) gave up singles to the first two batters he faced, one a bleeder through the right side of the infield.
Freddie Freeman cashed that in with a sacrifice fly.
That was it.
Verlander allowed four singles the rest of the way, two of them by Teheran. He struck out eight, which put him over 250 for the third time in his career – the first time since 2011.
Verlander stayed in the dugout for a long time after the game, watching the Turner Field Farewell ceremony.
“Lot of hard work for naught,” he said, when asked for his thoughts at that moment. “You can’t say it was a wasted year because we battled and we gave it everything we had. Key injuries hampered us for long stretches and we were the last (non-playoff team) standing.
“Still, all the hard work before the season, all the hard work during the season, for it to come to an end on the last day like this, it’s tough."