If you're a fan of radio broadcasters who don't pull any punches when it comes to dissecting terrible losses, your ship has just come in. As the Tigers were putting on some kind of weird performance art in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game (tentatively entitled "Exploration of Weakness"), Dan Dickerson and Jim Price carried on a rather lengthy conversation breaking down what had just gone so wrong.
After retiring the first batter he faced, Joe Nathan issued a one-out walk to Trevor Plouffe, which already had Jim Price getting nervous: "He knows as a closer this is just ... you just can't walk people." That would prove to be a prophetic statement.
Then came the big blow, as Kurt Suzuki lined a shot into left-center that got past a diving Ezequiel Carrera and allowed the tying run to score. In the immediate aftermath, with the Minnesota crowd still cheering, Jim and Dan had the following conversation that squarely put the responsibility on both Joe Nathan and the "defensive upgrade" in center field.
Jim: Well that was an absolute misplay, if he doesn't dive like that — he had no chance to make it — and plays it on one hop, you got runners on first and second. Instead, he dove for it, no chance to get it because he misplayed it, had no chance to get it, and ... boy, oh boy, oh boy, what a bad play by Carrera in center field.
Dan: Hanging breaking ball, Jim.
Jim: Sure was. Up in the zone. Bad pitch, bad play by the center fielder. [silence] Well, that's a shame. That is a shame.
Dan: You'd just gotten a huge lift from the Martinez home run ...
Jim: Just hard to believe. You make a play like that - you hang a ball, then make a play like that.
Dan: This is what we have seen from Joe Nathan of late. Last outing it was "single, double, walk" ... tonight, "walk, double" — again, should have been a single but the fact is, it was a line shot into center field
Jim: Right, but the walk ... it's just ...
Dan: Three straight outings with a walk, Jimmy.
Jim: It's just not gonna work! It just doesn't work.
The booth fell silent for a moment or two, before Jim Price, still clearly trying to make sense out of what he had just seen, could do no more than utter two disappointed words that all of us were probably feeling.
Jim: Oh boy.
Dan: ... especially when you're brought in for defensive purposes.
Jim: YES! Take the step back, you don't read it, then you dive when you have no chance to make the play.
Dan: Because you know, if you don't make the play, you gotta think about what happens.
As the game continued on, pitches were made, balls and strikes were called, and still Jim Price couldn't clear his mind.
Jim: Just hard to believe, just ... what just happened. Walk a batter, hanging breaking ball, bad misplay in center field ... boy ...
Dan: Ohhh, it's just tough!
Jim: Oh, it is, it just takes ...
Dan: After JD just delivered ...
Jim: It hits you in the gut!
Dan: A two-out, three-run home run — doesn't get any better than that!
Jim: Sure doesn't. Just need, you know, a lights-out closer to do the job.
I think we would all agree, Jim. The 2014 team has two major weaknesses in the area of defense and late-innings pitching. Unfortunately, both were on display last night, leaving many of us to wonder if the starting pitching and offense can overcome these weaknesses well enough to make a deep postseason run.