The Detroit Tigers were two outs away from winning their second straight game with a 1-0 scored. But one Nick Castellanos misplay and Joe Nathan implosion later, the Oakland Athletics walked off 3-1 victors.
That starter was Anibal Sanchez, who recorded his best start of the season. Sanchez was pulled after season highs of 8 1/3 innings and 111 pitches, allowing just three hits, striking out ten and walking only one. He was charged with one run, which scored on Nathan's watch.
Nathan became the goat when he was asked to get the final two outs with a runner in scoring position. Helped by a nick Castellanos misplay, Nathan didn't retire a batter, taking the loss and his fourth blown save. Post game, both Ausmus and Nathan pointed to a misplay by rookie third baseman as the turning point in the inning, forcing a change as to how Donaldson was approached.
Obviously, the approach didn't work.
A's starter Scott Kazmir was just as good as Sanchez. Kazmir recorded his first complete game in eight years, givng up just one run on six hits, striking out eight while not allowing a walk. Two outs away from being a hard-luck loser, Donaldson's homer gave the resurrected left-hander his sixth victory.
Torii Hunter supplied all the Tigers' offense with a fourth inning solo home run.
Donaldson supplied all the A's offense with his ninth inning three run shot.
You do the math.
After a scoreless first inning, the Tigers threatened against A's starter Scott Kazmir in the second.
J.D. Martinez on first after a Brad Aumus replay challenge overturned a what would have been an inning ending double play, Kazmir wild pitched him into scoring position. Alex Avila was then bit by the shift. His hard one-hopper over the second base bag was handled by the shifted shortstop, ending the threat.
Anibal Sanchez retired the first six A's he faced, four of them caught by Rajai Davis in center. Only one was a difficult play, Davis using his speed to rob Yoenis Cespedes of extra bases with a diving catch in left center in the second inning. Seems some center fielders will dive when the occasion calls for it.
Rajai just flat out-ran that ball. Replay shows that he also accidentally caught a fly ball in Minnesota en route.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 29, 2014
The A's held scoreless by Sanchez for six outs, this was only the second time in the past 11 games the Tigers haven't allowed runs in the first two innings.
Kazmir pitched out of a two out jam in the third. Davis (who entered the game with a career 1.400 OPS off Kazmir) doubled off the left field wall with two down. But Kazmir completed striking out the side, Ian Kinsler going down swinging.
Sanchez allowed his first base runner in the bottom of the third, a one out walk to Josh Reddick. But Miguel Cabrera started a slick 3-6-1 inning ending double play, meaning Sanchez had faced the minimum through through three.
While Sanchez was motoring along and in spite of the Tigers having scoring opportunities in two of the first three innings, the score remained 0-0 heading into the fourth.
It didn't remain 0-0 for long.
One strike away from a 1-2-3 inning, Kazmir's full count breaking ball hung in the zone for Torii Hunter. He got all of it, clearing the high wall near the 388 mark in right center. Hunter's second home run in as many games was his eighth of the season, putting the Tigers up 1-0 (MLB.com video).
Thoughts of a Sanchez no-hitter were dashed with two down in the fourth on a Josh Donaldson single. Nothing more would come of it, the shift eating up Brandon Moss' line drive to end another scoreless inning for Sanchez.
Four scoreless innings would normally be shrugged off as unsurprising for a Tigers' rotation member. But after the past week and change, it was a notable accomplishment.
This is the first time since May 17 that a Tigers starter has made it 4 innings without giving up a run.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 29, 2014
Kazmir was doing his part in the pitcher's duel by pounding the strike zone, his only mistake through five innings being the Hunter gopher ball.
It was more of the same for the A's in the fifth. Sanchez retired the side in order, striking out a pair. His pitch count at a mere 60 through five, Sanchez was on track to give the bullpen some needed rest.
Bottom of six, Sanchez found his first bit of trouble. Eric Sorgard slapped a looping liner down the left field line for a one out double. He pitched around the two base hit, Coco Crisp flying out to shallow left, John Jaso bouncing out to second.
The seventh went quickly for both pitchers. A very efficient Kazmir allowed a Victor Martinez single, but a double play made it just a three batter inning. Bottom half of the inning, Sanchez recorded his seventh strikeout while needing only 13 pitches to retire the A's in order.
The eighth was another Kazmir-Sanchez showcase, both recording 1-2-3 frames. After eight full, Kazmir was at 89 pitches. Sanchez reached the 100 mark, ending the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
The game remained in the hands of both starters in the ninth. Top of nine, Joe Nathan was stirring in the bullpen, but wasn't yet warming up. Sanchez was going to take the mound in the ninth.
Two down in the ninth, Kazmir was one strike away from a complete game. Cabrera down 1-2 in the count, Cabrera hit a line dirve off the left field fence. Cespedes got a perfect bounce, and fired to second. Cabrera did a gymnastics routine to avoid the tag, and was called safe.
With absolutely nothing to lose, A's manager Bob Melvin challenged the call. Replays showed Sogard did manage to tag Cabrera, ending the inning.
Sanchez started the ninth, but was likely on a short leash. Alberto Callaspo pinch-hit for Sorgard, and went down on a ground ball.
But Crisp snapped Sanchez's out streak at eight, slapping a ground ball just inside the third base bag, good for a double. Sanchez had thrown a season high 111 pitches 8 1/3 innings, and Ausmus was immediately out of the dugout. Nathan would enter the game in an unfamiliar situation for a closer - the winning run already on base.
Jaso hit a very catchable soft line drive to Castellanos, but the rookie just plain whiffed on the ball. It went off the top of his glove and into left field. It was scored a hit but should have been an error. Regardless, instead of a possible double play, the "hit" put runners on the corners.
Didn't make a difference, as Donaldson yanked the first pitch he saw from Nathan well into the left field seats.Hang a breaking ball, you pay the consequences. The Tigers did, with a very, bad, very upsetting loss.
Your final score is A's 3, Tigers 1.
Think the Tigers currently have buyer's remorse on Joe Nathan?
On the bright side, the Tigers have an afternoon game on Thursday, They won't have time to stew over a very bad loss.
The series finale has the Tigers' Rick Porcello (7-2, 3.88 ERA) looking for his eighth win of the season. The A's send right-hander Jesse Chavez (4-2, 2.61 ERA) to the mound, where he'll look to continue out-racing the regression monster.
Pitching for his 14th team since 2003, the 30-year-old Chavez is off to the best start of his career. Owner of a career 4.88 ERA and having only two starting nods in six previous MLB seasons, injuries forced Chavez into the A's 2014 rotation. He's pitched well, the A's winning eight of his ten appearances.
Porcello had won six consecutive starts before the wheels fell off last Saturday. In a loss to the Rangers, Porcello allowed season highs in hits (12) and runs (8), his ERA rising by almost a full run, in just 5 1/3 innings. But he previous start was a gem, giving up only one run and six hits over eight innings in beating the Red Sox.
It's getaway day at the O.co, first pitch is set for 3:35 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
In a change of pace for the Tigers, Max Scherzer was keeping busy on his day off by manning the replay phone.
Call overturned. Amazing, considering Max was actually on the phone with the Bernsteins.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 29, 2014
To be honest, I was disappointed someone named Max wasn't using a different kind of phone...
Just another confirmation weird things go down on the west coast when we in the eastern time zone are normally in bed.
Did that giant-headed hall of famer's race just happen, or did I accidentally get into the absinthe?— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 29, 2014
The FSD crew were wondering why Rajai Davis didn't replace J.D. Martinez in left field when Austin Jackson took over in center in the seventh. Maybe it's because Davis isn't a very good defensive outfielder? Earlier in the game, Davis made a few putouts in center look more difficult than they really were. Later in the game, the Tigers announced he was left the game due to a left shoulder contusion. Davis, as are we all, is day-to-day.
Austin Jackson takes over in center, muttering, "that's why you don't dive."— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 29, 2014
STREAKS AND STATS:
With a 2-for-3 night, Rajai Davis has a career batting average of .500 (9-for-18) against Scott Kazmir.
Coming into tonight, Kazmir had just one complete game in his career. It was eight years ago, beating the Red Sox on July 3, 2006. You can now credit him with two.
The Tigers have not won back-to-back games since the end of their six game winning streak, which was ten days ago.
The loss drops the Tigers to 2-8 in their last ten games.
Anibal Sanchez: Deserved far, far better fate than a no-decision.
Rajai Davis: Continues his pwnage of Scott Kazmir with a 2-for-3 night, added a nice diving catch in center field.
Torii Hunter: Supplied all the Tigers' offense with a solo home run.
Joe Nathan: Four blown saves in 16 attempts and two in eight days is not what the Tigers were paying for when they inked Nathan to an expensive free agent deal. Converting only 75% of your saves is not going to cut it long-term. Considering the money involved, the Tigers have to be hoping, "This too, shall pass."
Nick Castellanos: His inability to make a routine play on John Jaso's liner in the bottom of the ninth extended the game. It may not have caused the loss, but it did play a part. It's a play every MLB third baseman should make.Post-game, both Ausmus and Nathan both called it an inning changing play in regard to how they approached Donaldson. Thing is, should they have said it publicly?
Brad Ausmus: Let the second guessing begin. Should he have replaced Sanchez? His starter showed no sign of being gassed, yet immediately went to his closer on Coco Crisp's double. In today's game, closers rarely enter the game in the middle of an inning. Regardless, it's not hard to see Sanchez is the better pitcher. You also have to wonder if Asumus should have kept his mouth shut about the Castellanos play.
Throwing Castellanos under the bus: Going by the comments made by Nathan on FSD about being forced to change his approach because Castellanos missed Jaso's liner, it sure sounded as if he was pointing a finger at his rookie third baseman. Not cool when you served up a meatball to end the game, making the play a bit moot. Asumus also walked the same line, as he brought the Castellanos play up as a possible inning changer. Jim Leyland never would have said anything about Castellanos' misplay.
TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
GAME 48 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Rajai Davis never touched a bat or recorded a putout, but left a huge impression on the game nonetheless. His speed manufacturing the game-winning run in the eighth made Davis the top choice for PotG with 54% of the vote.