|WP: Robbie Ross (3 - 0)
SV: Joe Nathan (4)
LP: Thad Weber (0 - 1)
Where do you place the blame when the Detroit Tigers fall to the Texas Rangers 3-2 in 11 innings, dropping the weekend series 3-1? Yes, the obvious person to look at is home plate umpire Tim Welke, who badly blew a call in the 11th on a squeeze bunt which should have been a dead ball. But please don't let the Tigers off the hook for the loss, as their offense went AWOL for long stretches...again.
Tim Welke said, having seen replay, the ball hit Gonzalez, but they had to make call based on what they saw on field.
In the post game presser, Jim Leyland wouldn't take the bait, refusing to call out the umpires for missing the call.
"You all saw it, you don't need a quote from me. Write what you saw, you watched the game."
He also pointedly added this:
"We didn't swing the bats, to put this on the umpires would be totally wrong."
Exactly. It's going to take more than 2 runs to beat the Rangers. You also need to get more than 1 hit from your final 17 (!) batters to beat the Rangers. The lack of offense had just as much, if not more, to do with the loss than the blown call. If you feel the need to point fingers, point at the Tigers' limp bats.
But before everyone blows a gasket and goes into panic mode, remember this. The Tigers are in 1st place with a 10-6 record, despite playing one of the toughest stretches of their schedule. Keep this in mind as well. Only one team has a better record than the Tigers in the American League. That team would be the Rangers, who have taken every team they've played to the woodshed, not just the Tigers.
For the nuts and bolts recap:
With the blame game out of the way, I have to give Drew Smyly his props. How good has he been? Very good, as pointed out via @ESPNStatsInfo. He's the first Tigers pitcher in the "Live Ball Era" (since 1920) to start his first 3 career games and allow 1 run or fewer in each. Despite his sparkling 1.12 ERA, Smyly has yet to record a win this season.
But the real story of the game was the Tigers' lack of offense, and some of it was just bad baseball luck. The 6th inning was as frustrating of an example as you'll find. Brennan Boesch did homer, but Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila all hit bombs which would have left many major league parks. Comerica Park isn't one of them. Their 3 fly balls combined traveled well over 1200 feet, and all the Tigers got for it was 3 long outs. What could have been a 5-1 game remained 2-1.
Sometimes baseball can be so infuriating. Bad things happen to good teams. Let's hope tomorrow's day off does the Tigers' bats a world of good. It sure can't hurt.
Drew Smyly: Kept a very powerful Rangers lineup in check, pitched more than well enough to win - 6 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 7 K.
Ramon Santiago: For the second game in a row, he played an integral part in getting the Tigers offense going - Tripled, 1 R.
Jose Valverde: Came on in a non-save situation in the 10th, and other than allowing a walk to Hamilton, had a surprisingly uneventful inning. I'm as shocked as you are - 1 IP, 0 R.
Thad Weber: His debut was memorable, for all the wrong reasons. Walking the lead off batter in the 11th inning rarely ends well. Same for loading the bases with no one out. If you do your job, the game doesn't hinge on a blown call. Though you couldn't ask for a tougher team or situation to face in your first ever big league game.
Tim Welke: Missed Alberto Gonzalez's squeeze bunt going off his knee, giving the Rangers a gift go-ahead run and Weber the loss. Unfortunately, even though Welke admitted his mistake, there's not a damn thing that can be done about his miscue. The Tigers have to suck it up and move on.
GAME 15 PLAYER OF THE GAME
Could it be anyone other than Justin Verlander? I didn't think so.