Tigers bemoan missed plays, missed opportunities as losing streak hits four
Detroit — The Tigers didn't execute a play with two outs in the second inning that cost them a run. They had a runner thrown out at the plate in the third inning with no outs. They left runners in scoring position with less than two outs in the third, fourth and ninth innings.
So, yes, the Pirates officially won Tuesday's game 5-3 in the 10th inning when Starling Marte, with two outs, hit a hanging slider from Shane Greene into the visitor's bullpen. But the Tigers contributed to their own demise long before that.
"You know what, we battled," Gordon Beckham said. "I like the way we battled. We didn't give up. I like the way the team showed up and kept showing up late in the game. ... We need to clean it up a little bit, we understand that."
It was the Tigers' fourth straight loss, and the recurring theme has become a failure to produce the timely hit. The bottom of the ninth was the latest example. Down 3-2, and with the offense laying dormant for four innings, they jumped on struggling Pirates closer Keone Kela.
He'd blown his first three save chances and his ERA was just under 8.00.
Christin Stewart led off the bottom of the ninth with a ringing double off the wall. It was his second double of the game. He was replaced by pinch-runner Dustin Peterson, who scored on a single to right by Jeimer Candelario.
Candelario got to second on a wild pitch, but he was stranded. Beckham struck out, Grayson Greiner popped out and JaCoby Jones grounded out.
"You always want to do the job," Beckham said. "It's never fun when you don't do it. But it's the big leagues and these guys have great stuff. It's not always going to happen. ... We'll keep working on it and get better. That's all we can do."
The loss spoiled another strong outing by Tigers starter Matthew Boyd. He went seven innings, struck out seven and got nine ground ball outs.
But in the end, he was taking the blame for one regrettable pitch he threw to Jung Ho Kang in the fourth inning — a first-pitch fastball that Kang deposited for two-run home run that put the Pirates up 3-0.
"Shame on me," Boyd said. "The only thing that cost us the game was that home run by Kang."
Boyd and catcher Greiner had been in sync the entire game. But in that at-bat, Boyd shook off Greiner's pitch call. Greiner wanted to start Kang with an off-speed pitch — which they did in the sixth inning and struck him out.
Boyd, though, wanted to throw the fastball.
"I shook him, and he has it dialed in," Boyd said. "He's so prepared and so dialed into their lineup. We had a great plan and he called a great game and I deviated. That's completely my bad."
You can shine a spotlight on two other plays that could have changed the game had the Tigers executed them.
After striking out the side in the first inning, Boyd gave up back-to-back singles with one out in the second. But it looked like he was going to pitch his way out of it. He got JB Shuck to hit into a force play and Pablo Reyes to hit a weak, spinning ground ball to Miguel Cabrera at first.
Boyd hustled to cover first and was there in plenty of time, but Cabrera wheeled to throw to second and had no play. It was ruled a single, allowing the first run of the game to score.
"He didn't think he had a play going back behind him at first base," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He looked to second thinking maybe that was his best shot. Who knows what would have happened if he tried to throw the ball to Boyd running away from him with a runner right on his tail.
"He chose to eat it and not make it worse. It was just a ball hit in no-man's land."
"That guy at the plate was fast and I think we both expected him to get out of the box quicker," he said. "He made the smart move. Left-handed pitcher falling off and a guy who is fast out of the box. He made the right play because usually there wouldn't be a play at first base."
The Tigers then ran themselves out of a potential big inning in the third. Beckham led off with a double. Greiner followed with a hard single to left. Left fielder Reyes had the ball as Beckham was rounding third.
Third-base coach Dave Clark waived him homeward nevertheless.
Reyes, with time to load up, fired a bullet to the plate and catcher Francisco Cervelli slapped the tag on Beckham just before he touched the plate.
"When a ball is hit to the left side, you freeze just for a tick, just to make sure it doesn't get caught," Beckham said. "You don't want to run into an out. I got a pretty good jump. We said we were going to force the issue and we did.
"He made a good throw. What are you going to do. We were an inch away from maybe winning the game."
Had Beckham stayed at third, the Tigers would have had runners at the corners with no outs, and the bottom two hitters in the order coming to the plate.
"Yeah, there were no outs, you can say all that stuff," Gardenhire said. "He was thrown out, but we had to review it and we couldn't even tell if he was out or safe. We could have stopped him and he might've stayed there.
"And he could've been safe on that play just as well as he could've been called out. It's tough. When you aren't scoring runs, you try to force the issue."
Even when the Tigers finally broke through with two runs in the bottom of the fourth — stopping Pirates starter Joe Musgrove's streak of 18 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run — they still left two runs in scoring position with less than two outs, without putting a ball in play.
Beckham and Greiner both struck out swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.
"I just think it's part of the game," Gardenhire said. "Everybody wants to drive in a run and maybe you start getting a little goosey. We talked about getting a little bit outside the zone.
"I thought we competed pretty good. We just have to keep battling. But it's really tough because these guys are really into it right now."