AJ Hinch's proactive managing in the 7th inning pivotal in Tigers' win Saturday
Detroit — What do you know, sometimes the passive play is the right play.
Tigers manager AJ Hinch has preached aggression and pressure all season long, whether it’s with pitchers being the first to two strikes, hitters hunting fastballs early in counts, base runners taking extra bases or playing the infield defense in to cut down runners from third, regardless of inning.
But in the seventh inning Saturday night, with the tying run at third base and the go-ahead run at second and one out, Hinch played his infield back against former Tiger Wilson Ramos.
“I just believed we were going to hang in there if we only gave up one run,” Hinch said after the Tigers prevailed 6-4. “Ramos was going to hit the ball on the ground. I felt like that was going to be the case (against Tigers reliever Jose Cisnero). If that goes through, we fall behind and they’re going right to (Emmanuel) Clase and (James) Karinchak.”
Hinch has seen enough of the Indians power-armed, late-inning bullpen duo to know the odds of mounting a comeback against it are slim. And being the home team, he knew he still had two of his power arms fresh and ready — Michael Fulmer and Gregory Soto.
“If we can keep it tied, they were starting to get thin down in their bullpen,” Hinch said. “And we had the pitch advantage playing at home.”
So you don't go all-in for the save in the seventh. You survive and wait and then create better odds in the eighth and ninth innings.
Cisnero got Ramos to ground out to shortstop and got Oscar Mercado to fly to right to end the inning and keep the game tied.
The Tigers scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth, on a bases-loaded bloop single by Eric Haase, against veteran right-hander Bryan Shaw to claim victory.
“The way the game was going, getting out of the seventh at 4-4 was a success,” Hinch said. “We still had Fulmer and Soto ready to come in. But the key was to keep Clase out of the game. He’s nasty.”
One of the fascinating things to watch this season is how pliable and adaptive Hinch is through the course of games. While never straying too far from his core philosophies and tenets, he will do anything and everything to win a game —whether it flies in the face of “the book” or goes against the prevailing data.
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