Let's play the blame game: Rangers 5, Tigers 4

Max Scherzer reacts to the balk call allowing a run to score. (photo by our own Allikazoo, who was at the game)

Final - 4.23.2010 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 4 10 1
Texas Rangers 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 5 6 0
WP: Neftali Feliz (1 - 0)
LP: Fu-Te Ni (0 - 1)

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The Tigers rallied with two outs in the ninth against a fine rookie closer to make a ballgame out something that probably shouldn't have been one.

Credit goes to a nice at-bat by Ramon Santiago, and back-to-back-to-back hits by Austin Jackson, Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez for that.

If those guys hadn't stepped up in the ninth, we would not even have reason to continue with this post.

But the Tigers did tie the score, and poor pitching and questionable decisions followed that resulted in a walkoff loss for Detroit.

So who do we blame? You can't just pin it on one person or one moment. Let's examine the ninth inning a bit closer.

  • Fu-Te Ni returns to the mound in the ninth inning in what was a bad idea. After exhibiting questionable control in the eighth inning, a player best used as a lefty one-out specialist came back to the mound in the ninth. On the surface, this looks like a good idea, as he was facing a left-handed batter. But that left-handed batter was Justin Smoak, making his major league debut. He just happens to be one of the top batting prospects in baseball and had walked 16 times in 62 plate appearances in Triple-A  this season. So he's got a pretty good eye. Not a good matchup for a guy struggling with command.  Ni finished the day with 7 strikes in 19 pitches (subtracting the intentional base on balls here otherwise he was 7 for 23).
  • You can blame Ni for doing awful, and you can blame Jim Leyland for enabling him to do so with the game on the line.
  • After Smoak was given a free pass and moved to second on a sacrifice, Leyland walked Ryan Garko intentionally. This looks like the standard move. You want to set up the double play. Or do you? Garko was hitless for the season. Why not bring in right-hander Ryan Perry to face the right-hander?
  • So Perry comes into the game against the No. 9 batter with two runners already on base. The No. 9 batter just happens to be Nelson Cruz, who was sitting on the bench waiting for just such an opportunity. Cruz has seven home runs and a .329 average this year with a .419 on-base percentage. This is the guy Leyland would rather his reliever face? Or did he just believe Texas manager Ron Washington was going to leave him on the bench?
  • In any case, Perry did not get the job done against Nelson, who walked to load the bases. So add Perry to the list of people to blame. And Texas was back to the top of the batting order. Elvis Andrus got the hit to end the game.

So there you have it. Thanks to some nice come-from-behind play by the batters, Ni, Leyland and Perry combined to blow the game. Otherwise Scherzer takes the loss and we have a lot less to complain about.

Obviously it's just one game and there's no reason to dwell further on that fact.

Other notable things:

  • Before his key infield single, Jackson struck out three more times. He's now struck out in 16 consecutive games played.
  • Max Scherzer didn't pitch the best, but he did strike out seven while allowing eight baserunners. His big mistake was allowing Vladamir Guerrero to take him deep to center field in the first inning. Another run scored on a balk error when Alex Avila touched the ball with his catcher's mask.
  • Brennan Boesch hit a double on the first MLB pitch he ever saw.
  • The Tigers outhit the Rangers 10-6 and still found a way to lose.
  • Detroit is 3-5 on the road trip and must take the next three to have a winning record on the west coast trip. Obviously I don't think you'd find anyone complaining at taking two of the next three.

Time to move on!

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