Detroit — Manager Ron Gardenhire was talking about the pitch Shane Greene threw to Jason Kipnis with two outs and a base open in the top of the ninth inning of a 1-1 game Friday night.
The pitch, on a 1-0 count, was a spinning slider over the middle of the plate that Kipnis walloped 410 feet into the seats in right-center field, giving the Cleveland Indians a 4-1 win and spoiling a break-through night for Tigers' ace Michael Fulmer.
"We can all sit there and say this and that, but it was a 1-0 count and the change-up or slider — I couldn't tell because the pitch didn't do anything," Gardenhire said. "Sometimes, if they are going to beat you they probably have to hit you the other way. It can't be a situation where you throw something up and they can pull it.
"But that's just me saying what-if. There were a lot of what-ifs tonight."
Start with what if the Tigers had been able to score more than one run for Fulmer, who pitched seven strong innings, allowing a run and five hits with seven strikeouts. Fulmer, who threw 71 fastballs (two-seam and four-seam) with a velocity range between 95 and 99 mph, struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh before departing.
"That's what we talked about," Gardenhire said. "Locate fastballs and throw it down in the zone. That's what he said he needed to do better and you saw it tonight against a really good baseball team,
"Unfortunately, their guy was as good if not better."
Trevor Bauer went eight innings and struck out 12 for the Indians. He gave up back-to-back doubles to the first two batters he faced — Leonys Martin and Nick Castellanos — and then put up zeros through the eighth.
But what-if, before Kipnis hit his home run in the ninth, the Tigers had executed a relay and nabbed Jose Ramirez off third base. The inning would have been over and the game still tied.
"It always comes down to something like that," Gardenhire said. "We missed a play. I am not sure what should have happened on that relay, but if we throw the ball to third base, we probably get the guy."Greene had walked Ramirez with one out. With two outs, Yonder Alonso singled on a 3-2 pitch. Ramirez was running on the pitch. He breezed by second base and took a wide turn around third.
Second baseman Dixon Machado had a chance to freeze Ramirez between third and home, but he threw home right away and Ramirez scampered back to third safely and Alonso dashed to second.
"The worst thing that should have happened is to keep the runners at first and third," Gardenhire said. "Not at second and third — that was the worst thing. If we run the ball in, we stop the guy. Maybe we make a play at third base."
Catcher James McCann thought he might have had a chance to throw out Alonso at second.
"The only way to go about that play is to get it in as soon as you can," he said. "By the time I got the ball — I just watched the relay of it — I potentially could have thrown to second. But you risk overthrowing the ball or bouncing it.
"In that moment, I thought the best play was to eat it and find a way to get the next guy. Unfortunately, it didn't work."
First base was open and Roberto Perez, a right-handed hitter batting .139, was on deck. But looming on the bench was longtime Tigers nemesis Melky Cabrera. Kipnis came in hitting .205 and had struck out in his two previous at-bats.
"We had a base open, but we were facing the right guy," Gardenhire said. "The slider didn't do anything and he hit a three-run home run."
It was the sixth home run allowed this season by Greene in 30.1 innings. He gave up six dingers last season in 71 games, 67.2 innings. Joe Jimenez, meanwhile, pitched another scoreless eighth inning, his 14th in his last 15 outings.
"Jimenez did his job in the eighth inning; Greene is the closer," Gardenhire said. "In a tie ballgame at home, Greene will pitch the ninth. That will always be the case."