Tigers 7, Dodgers 6: Victor Martinez's 10th inning home run bails out Joe Nathan

Stephen Dunn

Tigers closer Joe Nathan blew his second save of the season, allowing three runs in the bottom of the ninth. Victor Martinez gave Nathan his second victory of the season with a tenth inning home run.

The Detroit Tigers bounced back from consecutive losses to beat the the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-6 in ten innings. Tigers closer Joe Nathan, who had allowed three runs in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extras, was bailed out by Victor Martinez's tenth inning solo home run. The Tigers and Dodgers split the short two-game series.

Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter was not in the lineup tonight after injuring his knee sliding into the Dodger Stadium wall in game one of the series. Manager Brad Ausmus said Hunter was kept out of the lineup for precautionary measures, but could pinch hit if needed. Turns out he wasn't, as the Tigers' offense came to life after going MIA for two games.

"He's going to be successful, because he's driven, he's got that mind, and he's got the communication skills to be a great manager in this league for a long time." -Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis on Brad Asumus

Anibal Sanchez was not sharp early for Detroit, allowing three runs in the first two innings. He would settle in from that point to retire ten of the last 11 Dodgers he faced, and was in line for the victory before Nathan's implosion. Sanchez gave up three runs on six hits in five full innings, walking one and striking out six.

After Tuesday's bullpen issues, Drew Smyly was a breath of fresh air. Pitching in relief as he bides his time for his start, Smyly pitched extremely well. The left-hander held the Dodgers scoreless, allowing just one hit in three innings.

Earlier in the day Joe Nathan admitted he was dealing with a dead arm. He pitched like it, giving up three runs on three hits and two walks in his adventurous ninth inning. Despite all that, he was credited with the win. Both victories came after blown saves. Al Alburquerque, the last of six Tigers' pitchers, got his first career save by recording the final out of the game.

Dodgers' starter Josh Beckett was activated off the disabled list to make his first start since May 13 of last season. The Tigers rocked Beckett for five runs and five hits in four innings, walking one and striking out five. Kenley Jansen was the victim of Martinez's tenth inning home run, taking the loss.

Martinez led a 13 hit attack with three hits and two RBI, including the game-winning homer. Rookie Nick Castellanos gave the Tigers their first lead of the night with a three run homer in the third inning. It was the first big fly of his career. Ian Kinsler continued his fast start with two hits while scoring twice.

Adrian Gonzalez homered for the losers. Dee Gordon and Juan Uribe had three hits, Beckett chipping in with an RBI squeeze bunt.

----

Josh Beckett made his first start since last May. He proceeded to give up a run for first time since last May.

Ian Kinsler singled with one out, then stole second for his first swipe as Tiger. Aggressive base running is all well and good, but the steal took the bat out Miguel Cabrera's hands. Pitching carefully, Beckett went to a full count before walking the reigning AL MVP.

With Beckett working slower than molasses on a winter day against Victor Martinez, Kinsler was able to steal third without a throw. Martinez then took Beckett the opposite way, his fly ball to left more than deep enough to drive home Kinsler. Carl Crawford's throw home sailed over the cut off and was far off-line, allowing Cabrera to tag up as well.

Beckett would keep damage to a minimum by striking out Austin Jackson to end the inning.

Anibal Sanchez struggled in the first inning for the second straight start. He had help, the Tigers' defense struggled as well.

"He takes the craft of hitting very seriously, and it shows." -Berad Ausmus on Victor Martinez

At least the Tigers are getting better at throwing out runners trying to steal. Dee Gordon on base with a lead off walk, Brad Ausmus called for a pitch out, allowing Martinez (playing his first game of the season behind the plate) to throw out Gordon trying to steal second. It was the second game in a row a Tigers catcher has pegged a base runner.

The bases empty, Crawford sliced a ground rule double to left, Rajai Davis (unsurprisingly) unable to flag the ball down. Sanchez would wild pitch Crawford to third, then issue a free pass to Hanley Ramirez. Trouble loomed.

As Adrian Gonzalez was striking out, the Dodgers pulled off a double steal to tie the game. When Ramirez took off for second, Crawford headed for home on Martinez's low and off-line throw to Alex Gonzalez. Instead of trying to knock the throw down, Gonzalez wanted to throw home before the ball arrived and attempted to make a backhand pick on the short hop. Instead, the throw skipped away. When the dust had settled, Crawford had crossed the plate, Ramirez was standing on third, Martinez charged with an error, and the game was tied at 1-all.

Gonzalez continued to show why using 37-year-old as your everyday shortstop is a bad idea. He was unable to handle Andre Ethier's broken bat bloop, whiffing on the short hop. Either was credited with an infield single and RBI, Ramirez crossing the plate to give the Dodgers a 2-1 advantage.

In the second, the Dodgers' defense would fail Beckett. Gonzalez reached base when Gordon booted his two-out ground ball. The career .089 hitting Sanchez took matters into his own hands, knotting the game with his bat. Beckett served up a 94-MPH fastball right down the middle to Sanchez. The result was a fly ball to deep right center, Sanchez doubling over the head of Matt Kemp. Gonzalez scored all the way from first, the Tigers tying the game at 2-all.

Though Sanchez was swinging the bat well, throwing the ball was another matter altogether.

Juan Uribe led off the bottom of the second with a single. Martinez was struggling behind the plate, a passed ball allowing Uribe to take second.

"From the side he looked pretty crisp, from talking to him he said he felt better." -Ausmus on Joe Nathan's "dead arm"

Gonzalez helped to make up for his earlier misadventures with a nice defensive play. He saved a run with a diving stop on Tim Federowicz's bouncer up the middle, throwing him out in a bang-bang play. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly challenged, but the call was upheld.

So Mattingly opened his NL baseball bible, and looked under "S.". The count full on Beckett, Donnie Baseball called for the suicide squeeze, his pitcher getting the ball on the ground for the RBI and a 3-2 lead

Gordon would extend the inning with a bunt single and a stolen base. But Sanchez would finally end the inning with a strikeout of Crawford.

Sanchez's pitch count was a ridiculous 63 after just two innings. If his starter could not find his command, Ausmus would be forced to go to his bullpen far, far earlier than he would have prefer. It was going to be a bumpy ride.

But it's not as if Beckett was cruising through the Tigers' order. Top of three, he found himself in a two-out jam. Martinez singled, taking third when Jackson rifled a liner down the line which bounced into the stands for a ground rule double.

Martinez and Jackson would stroll home when Nick Castellanos capped off the two-out uprising with a three-run bomb to dead center. The big fly had plenty of top spin, hitting the top of the wall at the 395 mark and bouncing over for Castellanos' first career home run. The two-out rally allowed the Tigers re-take the lead at 5-3.

Needing just 12 pitches, Sanchez recorded a badly needed 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half of the third. Unfortunately, the game was on track for a mere 4 1/2 hours, being it had taken 90 minutes to play just three innings.

Another inning, another threat against Beckett. This one was manufactured by Davis. He was plunked by Beckett and easily stole second, his third of the young season. Kinsler was unable to capitalize on the RBI opportunity, striking out to end the threat.

In the meantime, Sanchez had re-discovered his command. His out streak reached seven when the Dodgers were retired in order. Sanchez had needed just 31 pitches over the last two innings. But with a pitch count of 94 meant he likely had just one more inning in him.

Beckett's return to the mound lasted just four innings and 85 pitches. Right-hander Brandon League took over for LA in the fifth. New pitcher? Didn't matter. The Tigers put together another threat.

Cabrera and Martinez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. After Jackson bounced into a fielder's choice, League walked Castellanos to load the bases for Tyler Collins. Given a shot to break the game wide open, the rookie outfielder entered the at-bat 0-for-11. One inning ending 6-4-3 double play later, Collins was 0-for-12 for his career.

Sanchez's out streak ended at nine when Crawford doubled with two down in the bottom of the fifth. Drew Smyly was warming up in the pen and ready to go, but would have to wait until the sixth to take the mound. Sanchez ended both the inning and his evening's work on a Ramirez ground out.

After looking for all the world to be on the verge of letting his pitch count spin out of control and handing the game to the pen much too early, Sanchez was able to battle through five full innings, having tossed 110 pitches.

Bottom of six, Drew Smyly took over for Sanchez.  Bolstering the bullpen while waiting to re-enter the rotation, he showed why he will be missed in relief with a 1-2-3 inning, striking out a pair.

The game now in the hands of the bullpens, the Dodgers brought in right-hander Jamey Wright to start the seventh.  Kinsler would make like an NL ballplayer and manufacture a run.  He greeted Wright with a base hit to center.  He would take off for second on a wild pitch, then advance to third when Federowicz's throw bounced into center. Jackson would increase the Tigers’ lead to 6-3 with a sacrifice fly to center.

Bottom of seven, Smyly allowed a lead off single to Uribe, but a double play quickly got the lefty out of any possible trouble. A bullpen arm who can pitch his way out of trouble? What a concept!

Lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez took over in the eighth for LA, allowing Collins’ first career hit. But like Smyly, a double play kept him out of trouble.

Bottom of eight, Smyly wrapped up a marvelous relief outing with a 1-2-3 inning. Even though there were two lefty bats leading off the ninth, and Smyly definitely capable of another inning, there was a save opportunity on tap.

So Ausmus had Joe Nathan , dead arm and all, warming up in the pen.

Bottom of nine, Nathan entered the game with a three run cushion. Let the second guessing commence.

Leading off, Gonzalez put a charge into a Nathan fastball, clearing the wall in center to pull the Dodgers within two.

Uh, oh.

Looking completely out of snyc and throwing essentially batting practice, Nathan walked Ethier. The Dodgers would now have a shot at tying the game with one swing.  Hold on, not so fast! Kemp walked as well, meaning the winning run would now be at the plate.

"Joe's the closer. No question in my mind he was going to pitch the ninth." -Ausmus, when asked about using Drew Smyly one more inning

The Chavez Ravine crowd was firing on all cylinders when Uribe dropped a single into center to load the bases, giving Mattingly a chance to bring heavy-hitting Yasiel Puig off the bench in a pinch-hitting role.

Stunningly, Puig struck out on three pitches. But Nathan was far from pitching himself out of trouble.

Pinch-hitter Scott Van Slyke's chopper to third wasn't hit hard enough for a double play, Castellanos firing to second for the out as Ethier crossed the plate to pull LA within a run at 6-5.

Nathan's second blown save in just his fourth outing was fait accompli. Gordon finished of the rally, driving home the game-tying run with a single to right. The game at 6-all, Nathan would get out of the inning with a fly ball, stranding the winning run on second, leaving it up to the offense to bail him out.

V-Mart to the rescue!

Facing Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, the veteran DH lead off the tenth by crushing a 96-MPH fastball, clearing the wall in at the 375 mark in right center. The second night in a row Martinez had come through with a huge hit in the late innings, the home run was his second of the season (MLB.com video).

Jackson and Collins would extend the inning with singles. With two out and two on, strategy ensued as the game hit the four hour mark. Don Kelly got the call from Ausmus to pinch-hit in the nine spot. Mattingly countered by calling on lefty J.P. Howell to replace Jansen.

Who would get the nod for the bottom of the tenth? Turns out Ausmus was going to play matchups. He also shifted his defense, bringing in Alex Avila to catch, shifting Martinez to first. Cabrera made fantasy players happy by taking over at third for Castellanos.

Wanting a righty-righty matchup, Ausmus had Joba Chamberlain face Ramirez. In a bit of bad Tigers luck, the Dodgers' shortstop reached base on a swinging bunt, credited with an infield hit.

Young lefty Ian Krol then entered the game to face Gonzalez and Ethier. In a nifty bit of relief work, Krol struck out both Dodgers.

Krol's job done and the right-handed Kemp due up, Ausmus was still playing matchups. He called on Al Alburquerque to end this long and sloppy mess of a game.

Al-Al finally ended a long-long night, inducing Kemp to ground out 5-3, Cabrera to Martinez.

GAME FREAKING OVER. The Tigers come back twice to beat the Dodgers 7-6 in ten innings. Your winning pitcher? Joe Nathan (recapper rolls eyes).

Thursday the Tigers head south on I-5 to San Diego, preparing to take on the Padres in a weekend interleague series. Game one on Friday features the lone Detroit starting pitcher to earn a victory in 2014, Rick Porcello (1-0, 1.35 ERA). The Padres send their opening day starter to the mound, right-hander Andrew Cashner (0-1, 2.25 ERA in two appearances). First pitch at Petco Park is scheduled for 10:10 P.M. EDT.

God forbid Friday's game goes into extra innings...

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

Eric Stephen, managing editor of our SB Nation sister blog True Blue LA, gave us Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis' pre-game thoughts on Brad Ausmus mentoring him during the Tigers manager's final two-years as a player.

"I was fortunate enough to catch in the major leagues before I met Brad, but I wasn't a major league catcher until after I met Brad. Just the two-year mentorship I had, that he gave me, was what turned me into the catcher I am today.

I didn't know how to prepare a game plan, and he taught me how to do that. He taught me how to take care of my body in between starts. He taught me how to be a better teammate. He taught me how my focus should be on my pitching staff only, just take care of those guys, that's my priority. He just taught me how to communicate with my teammates better. It's no shock to me he's the manager he is now and that he's been given this opportunity. As long as he wants to do it, he's going to be successful, because he's driven, he's got that mind, and he's got the communication skills to be a great manager in this league for a long time."

Patrick, BYB's own Tigerdog, was at Chavez Ravine tonight and looking for trouble.

A fairly well-known MSU basketball player (who also owns a small interest in the Dodgers) picked off a foul ball in the first inning.

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Anibal Sanchez's second inning RBI double was his first hit since July 17, 2012, first RBI since May 31, 2011, and only the second extra-base hit of his career.

The Tigers set franchise history when Nick Castellanos went yard in the third.

Aggressive baseball is truly back in town. The Tigers had three steals through four innings. Last season the Tigers never had a three steal game.

Rookie Tyler Collins had two hits the first of his career. The first hit was an eighth inning swinging bunt for a single. It wasn’t pretty, but it'll look like a line drive in the box score. His second hit was hard ground ball through the left side.

Joe Nathan giving up three late runs ups the awful ninth inning bullpen totals. They have now given up 12 runs in the ninth inning this season. The Tigers have given up just 14 runs total in the other innings combined.

Through all the frustrating bullpen antics, one pitcher can't be blamed. Luke Putkonen. Why? He's been buried in the dark recesses of the pen, and has yet to see any action.

At this point, you'd think it would be all hands on deck, if only to see what in the Hell might stick. Sorry PCB, it ain't happening.

THREE ROARS:

Nick Castellanos: The sweet swinging rookie gave the Tigers their first lead of the night with a three-run bomb, the first homer of his career.

Victor Martinez: Late game clutchiness for a second straight night, winning the game and bailing out Nathan with a home run. The veteran ended his night with three hits and two RBI.

Drew Smyly: Three shutout innings of relief. Can Drew stay in the bullpen, Mr. Ausmus? PLEASE?

BONUS ROARS:

Anibal Sanchez: Looked to be toast after two innings. Found his command over his final three innings and was in line to earn the win

Tyler Collins: After an 0-for-12 start to the season, Collins had the first hits of his career in his last two at-bats.

THREE HISSES:

Joe Nathan: During a Wednesday afternoon radio interview, Nathan said he wasn't worried about what he called a dead arm. He's had it before and has pitched through it. But he added that the problem had always cropped up in spring training, not during the season. That changes things.

The dead arm  issue came to a head tonight. Nathan looked anything like the closer who earned a two-year, $20 million contract after a 43 save season with the Rangers. He's been little better than Phil Coke since his Opening Day outing, Nathan's ERA now a sky-high 12.27.

If Nathan needs a DL stint to get over the dead arm, then do it. There's too much at stake for the Tigers this season for the 39-year-old Nathan to work out his arm problems in high leverage situations. But going by Brad Ausmus' post games comments that "Joe's the closer," that's exactly what the Tigers are going to do.

Defense: The Tigers had their issues, especially in the early innings. It's not surprising the main offenders, Alex Gonzalez and Victor Martinez, are the oldest. The catcher and shortstop were a combined 72-years-old.

Late night west coast road trips: Two games, two ridiculously late nights thanks to extra innings. Thanks, Tigers!

ROLL CALL:

Total comments 953
Total commenters 63
Commenter list AlohaTigersFan, Arvay7, Bengal Bandwagon, Cabbylander, ClownCollege, Designated for Assignment, Detigers09, ExTeeBallPitcher, Flying J, GhostOfBigRed, HookSlide, JWurm, J_the_Man, Jacob30, JimWalewander, JoeK5, Keith-Allen, Kurt Mensching, Kwisatz Haderach, LoganB, LuvTigerBaseball, MSUDersh, MakeItTrizzle, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, MotorCityCat, Muttcutts, NCDee, Nonsuch Ned, Parisian Tiger, PiChick, Rick Chaffee, Rob Rogacki, RoverTO, RudeMood19, SLEbaseball, SanDiegoMick, SpartanBoiler, SpartanHT, Sturgeon Slaw, TheLegacyofJordanTata, There Can Only Be One Verlander, TomduhB, Verlanderful, aarone46, aelix, ahtrap, crc33, dominator039, draykov44, fiendishdr.wu, frisbeepilot, jippolito, knucklescarbone, lesmanalim, mrsunshine, mtchyg, rock n rye, rodallen, steeplecoach, stevenyc, subic sailor, swish330, thepartybird
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2014/4/9/5596968/game-7-tigers-at-dodgers-10-10-p-mhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2014/4/9/5600028/game-7-overflow

TOP TEN 11 COMMENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 knucklescarbone 99
2 SpartanHT 72
3 Jacob30 65
4 mrsunshine 65
5 GhostOfBigRed 59
6 rock n rye 43
7 Keith-Allen 38
8 ahtrap 37
9 Michigan&TrumbullinLA 33
10 Cabbylander 31
11 Rob Rogacki 31

TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
5 Rob Rogacki NSFW
4 Rob Rogacki To doubt Vin Scully is to doubt Ernie Harwell
2 GhostOfBigRed At least we heard day bow bow over the PA.
2 SpartanHT AT LONG LAST

GAME SIX PLAYER OF THE GAME:

In a game with few candidates, Max Scherzer's seven innings of work, allowing two runs on eight hits, was enough to make him the overwhelming winner in the player of the game vote with 71%

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