"The kiss of death is when you walk the leadoff guy." — Leyland from Saturday.— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 15, 2013
The Astros used that ninth inning lead off walk issued by Al Alburquerque as the trigger point for a two run rally, breaking a 5-5 tie, allowing them to salvage the finale of the three game series and avoid a season series sweep.
The fifth of six Astros pitchers, Hector Ambriz (1-2) pitched to one batter in the eighth, striking him out, which was enough to receive credit for the win. Jose Veras survived a two out, bases loaded jam in the ninth to get a rocky fifth save.
Facing only two Astros, walking one, Alburquerque (0-1) ended up the losing pitcher. Though it was Phil Coke who allowed the big hit, Carlos Corporan's ninth inning double which drove in the game winning run.
Corporan led the Astros with a pair of hits, including a solo home run. J.D. Martinez also clouted a three run homer for the Astros. Avisail Garcia hit his first career home run for the Tigers, a three ruin shot. Matt Tuiasosopo had three hit and an RBI in a losing cause.
What is there to say other than walks may not be fascist, but they sure are evil. Lead off walks in the ninth are the tool of the devil, leading to late game losses. We also learned it's hard to hit home runs to right center field at Comerica Park and Jim Leyland too often puts Coke in a position to fail.
For the third straight time in the series, the Tigers fell behind in the early innings against the sad sack Astros. Carlos Corporan took Max Scherzer deep with two down the second inning. Corporan's third big fly of the season gave the Astros a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the inning, manufacturing their first run, then using their power to take a lead.
Red hot Jhonny Peralta started the two out rally with a base on balls. Tuiasosopo followed with a single to right, Peralta hustled to third.
Peraltra taking the extra base paid off, setting up Tigers' first run. Brayan Pena bounced a ground ball up the middle, shortstop Marwin Gonzalez ranged far behind the bag to flag it down, but had no play. Peralta scored on Pena's RBI infield single to tie the game at 1-all.
As impressive as Avisail Garcia looked in his short time with the Tigers last season, we never got to see his much talked about power. He only had one extra base hit, a double in the ALCS. Runners on first and second and still two out, we finally saw Garcia's power.
Hitting ninth, Mini-Miggy sent a charge into a 77 MPH change up, smashing a three run home over over the bullpens in left. Garcia's first career homer gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead. (MLB.com video)
Unfortunately, Scherzer gave all of the runs back, and then some, before getting anyone out in the fourth. Jake Elmore legged out a double leading off. Scherzer balked Elmore to third, and he would score on Carlos Pena's single.
Scherzer dug the hole deeper, walking Chris Carter before J.D. Martinez crushed a breaking ball over the bullpens for his third home run of the season, three run shot.
After Schezer finally got the first out of the inning, Jimmy Paredes just missed going yard, hitting the top of the scoreboard in right center for a one out double. Paredes would help run the Astros out of the inning by getting himself picked off, tagged out in a rundown.
When the dust had settled, the Astros scored four runs on four hits, a walk and a balk, taking back the lead at 5-4.
Both Dallas Keuchel and Scherzer settled in after their respective early misadventures.
Keuchel tossed three straight scoreless innings, until an error allowed the Tigers to manufacture another two out rally in the sixth.
Gonzalez booted Victor Martinez's ground ball for an E-6. then consecutive singles by Peralta and Tuiasosopo plated Martinez, tying the game at 5-all.
Astros skipper Bo Porter had seen enough and pulled Keuchel for lefty Travis Blackley, making his second straight appearance, and fifth in seven games against the Tigers. He would get Pena to pop up, ending the inning.
Both the Astros and Tigers ran themselves out of any chance of a rally in the seventh. Paredes was thrown out trying to steal second in the top of the inning, Omar Infante was picked off of first base on a snap throw by Corporan, caught lollygagging back to the bag after a high and tight pitch.
Given Jim Leyland's "Handshake of doom" after seven innings, Scherzer was replaced by Drew Smyly in the top of the eighth. With one down, Robbie Grossman singled. The speedy Elmore laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Smyly was a little too casual in making the play. Elmore easily beat the throw for a bunt single.
Smyly struck out Pena for the second out. But with the right-handed Carter due up, Leyland played the match up game, pulling him for Al Alburquerque. After allowing both runners to advance to scoring position by bouncing a slider in the dirt for a wild pitch (shocker, I know), Alburquerque got the K on a 3-2 pitch, ending the inning.
Game still tied 5-all, Alburquerque remained in the game to start the ninth. He would commit a Cardinal sin for a relief pitcher by walking the lead off man, Martinez. The walk would prove costly.
Alburquerque was thus given the hook, to be replaced by Phil Coke. The glorified LOOGY was asked to face Corporan ... a switch hitter who would bat from the right side. HEADDESK.
The inevitable happened. Hitting right-handed, Corporan smoked Coke's first pitch for a double to left center, pinch runner Brandon Barnes scoring easily to break the tie. SHOCKING.
After a sacrifice bunt advanced pinch runner Trevor Crowe to third, he would score on Dominguez's sacrifice fly, the Astros taking a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
Closer Jose Veras on for the Astros, he walked Pena with one out Andy Dirks pinch hit for Garcia, popping up to short.
Pena took second on defensive indifference as Infante would work a walk to keep the game alive.
Deciding to throw gasoline on a smoldering fire, Veras drilled Torii Hunter (down 0-2 in the count) with a fastball in wrist, loading the bases for Cabrera.
Cabrera hit a long fly ball which would have left many a stadium, or at the very least had been an extra base hit. But not Comerica Park. Not when you hit it to Death Valley in right center.
Barnes made a leaping catch against scoreboard, Cabrera missing a game winning hit by inches.
Hey, the 2003 Tigers won 43 games. The Astros were due against the 2013 Tigers.
But ninth innings don't get much more frustrating than that. Allowing the worst team in baseball to rally in the ninth, then your own rally coming up short thanks to hitting a bases loaded fly ball to the wrong part of the park. In other words, that's baseball.
The Tigers drop to 22-16 on the season, their lead in the Central down to 1/2 game over the Indians. Snapping a six game losing streak, the last place Astros sneak back to less than 20 games under .500 with the win, their record now 11-30.
The first place in the Central Tigers now head south to Texas to start a four game series with the first place in the West Rangers. Thursday's game will feature one of the best pitching match ups of 2013. The Tigers' Justin Verlander (4-3, 1.93 ERA) takes on Rangers ace Yu Darvish (6-1, 2.73 ERA). First pitch is 8:05 PM eastern.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Weather-wise, this was the best day of the season so far in SE MI, a first pitch temperature of 82 degrees.
With Austin Jackson on the DL and a left-hander in Dallas Keuchel getting the start for the Astros, Omar Infante got his first lead off assignment since his All-Star season with the Braves in 2010.
FSN stat of the day: Max Scherzer leads MLB in run support per nine innings at 8.94. Doug Fister is fifth at 7.56. For what it's worth, the Tigers face the starter with the second most run support, Yu Darvish (8.72), tomorrow night in Texas.
Carlos Corporan has hit three home runs this season. Two have been against Scherzer. Including spring training games, Corporan has gone yard four times against Tigers pitching. At least Corporan didn't go over the top with his celebrating...
At least Corporan can celebrate this time without his team being down by 15 runs— Detroit4lyfe (@Detroit4lyfeRob) May 15, 2013
They call Avisail Garcia "Mini-Miggy" for a reason.
MLB fixed their web page, but the mis-named tweet lives on.
The happiest player in Detroit after the three run bomb wasn't Garcia.
You guys, Miguel Cabrera was REALLY excited about Avisail Garcia's homer twitpic.com/cqs28z— Detroit4lyfe (@Detroit4lyfeRob) May 15, 2013
The Tigers' number nine hitters on the season lead MLB with a .313 BA, .31 OBP, 22 RBI and 16 extra base hits. What a difference Omar Infante has made (with help from Garcia today).
As Bo Porter made a path to the mound, we got the Mario Impemba quote of the day:
"Hey, look! Another pitching change for Houston."
I need to make a point to post this pic of the most Houston looking man ever wearing the Tequila Sunrise uni every time the Astros play the Tigers from here on out. Well, he could also be their mascot.
The Tigers won't have the Astros to beat up on anymore, their season series ends with the Tigers up 6-1. It was fun while it lasted. Now let the DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM ensue.
Really would have been nice to get that sweep before dropping 3 of 4 in Texas— Detroit4lyfe (@Detroit4lyfeRob) May 15, 2013
After the game Torii Hunter said he's fine after getting hit on the wrist.
Torii said wrist is fine. "I think I was being a little baby. I gotta stop crying."— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 15, 2013
As for Miguel Cabrera just missing a game winning grand slam? He was philosophical about it.
Did Miggy think he'd hit it out in 9th? "In this stadium? *laughs* Hit it and pray." #Tigers— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 15, 2013
Matt Tuiasosopo: Wijh three hits and an RBI, Big Squiggles raised his average to .375.
Avisail Garcia: First career homer was a big one, earning a roar.
Brayan Pena's right arm: The Astros were unsuccessful in their attempts to run on Pena, throwing out Robbie Grossman in the first and Jimmy Paredes in the seventh. Opponents were 6-for-6 stealing on Pena before today.
Max Scherzer's fourth inning: Take away the four run fourth and Scherzer has brilliant one hit game. But you can't and he didn't.
Jim Leyland: His use of the bullpen wasn't exactly one for the textbooks. Drew Smyly is more than a two out pitcher. Bringing on Al Alburquerque with runners on base is a risky proposition with his penchant for sliders in the dirt. Phil Coke should never face right-hand hitting. We all saw what happened.
The bullpen: No matter how you're used (as stated above), you still need to throw strikes and get outs. Didn't happen in the ninth inning.
GAME THREAD ROLL CALL:
Yes— Is SB Nation Down? (@SBNationStatus) May 15, 2013
It was a slow day in the game thread thanks to Vox/SB Nation server issues. We very much appreciate your hanging around despite the site hiccups.
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TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
Doug Fister's quality start (7 IP, 2 R) and fifth win of the season gave him 52% of the BYB vote and PotG honors.