I can't be the only person who's made the mistake of capping off a night of tequila shots with the brilliant thought, "A Sour Apple Pucker shot before I call it quits? Sure, that won't end badly at all!", and then spent the wee hours of the morning hugging the toilet bowl and praying for the sweet release of death. No? Just me? Ok, well let me tell you then, there's only one remedy: you have to chug water straight from the jug as fast as you can, in spite of -- no, precisely because of -- the fact that it will make you yurp even harder. Your body's gotta purge, man, gotta get the bad stuff out.
That actually has very little to do with this post, which is all about the five worst games the Tigers played in 2015, I just wanted to construct an entire paragraph around the word "yurp," and I did it. But maybe there is some connection there. Let me see ... ok, how about: these five awful games are the Sour Apple Pucker shots of this past season, and reliving them is the act of chugging water until you heave. It's something you have to do if you want to go into the 2016 season without the Hangover of Cynicism, which develops into the Massive Headache of Wariness and prevents you from enjoying the Large Egg and Sausage Breakfast of a Winning Record in June.
Or maybe our baseball season ended too early this year, and we've been so dead inside for so long that, dammit, yes, we'll relive these games that we wish we could forget, because at least the anger lets us know we're still alive. RAWR!
Ok, but first, take a look at this:
That is the image of a man who knows his American League Championship hopes just started swirling around the toilet bowl because this just happened in a win-or-go-home elimination game:
It's not just our old friend Jim Leyland, it's "WTF Leyland," the guy who can spot weak sh*t from three miles away and, let me tell you, he ain't having any of that happy horsesh*t. He's the perfect icon for all of our frustration, and with his arms stretched out in helpless appeal to the Gods of Common F***ing Sense, he's a unit of measurement for precisely how much we've absolutely had it. Each of these five games, then, will be rated on a scale of one to five WTF Leylands. Grab the water jug. We're doing this.
5. White Sox 7, Tigers 6 (May 6)
It was a well-fought game through the eighth inning, with leads gained, lost, and regained until the Tigers finally pulled away and led by a score of 6-3. And then Joba Chamberlain happened. Now, in defense of Brad Ausmus, I should point out that Joba had thrown six innings and only given up one run by this point in the young season. However, in defense of Angry Fans Everywhere, it was Joba Chamberlain, and most of us were still dealing with the pungent aroma of the back-to-back poops he left in our living rooms during Games One and Two of the 2014 ALDS.
He got two quick outs, followed by a single, an error, a game-tying home run -- no, I'm not done, there's more -- followed by back-to-back-to-back singles and presto!, you've been Joba'd again.
The Tigers did get a runner on base with one out in the ninth, but then James McCann somehow parlayed the next base hit into an out on the basepaths, and Jose Iglesias grounded out to end the game.
A little bit of bullpen suckery, a little bit of awful baserunning, and a sign of things to come. I'll give this one two out of five WTF Leylands.
4. White Sox 8, Tigers 7 (June 25)
Here's another late-innings loss to the White Sox that involves Joba Chamberlain, but this one's got a neat little surprise twist at the end, like an M. Night Shyamalan movie (Not one of his earlier movies, one of his later ones where you already know the big reveal is coming and it's not even all that clever).
The Tigers see-sawed with the Sox for eight innings, turning a 5-2 deficit into a 5-4 deficit, then tying the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth, Victor Martinez picked up a two-out single which put the winning run on base. With Cespedes at the plate, Brad Ausmus decided to go full #YOLO and swap V-Mart for pinch runner Josh Wilson. His reasoning, he later explained, was that he wanted Wilson to be able to score from first and end the game if Cespedes could hit a double in the gap.
Savor that for a moment. Let the complex tapestry of flavors swirl around in your mouth for a moment before you suddenly realize you're drinking a four-day-old can of warm Miller Lite. Ausmus gave up V-Mart's lineup spot on the gamble that not only would Cespedes get a hit, but a very specific kind of hit in a very specific part of the ballpark. Add a fairy godmother to the story at this point, because we've already jettisoned reality. Naturally, Cespedes recorded the final out, sending the game to extras. Enter Joba Chamberlain in the 10th inning, because that's how you load the bases and give up a three-run triple.
Ready for the surprise ending? The Tigers clawed back for two runs and put the tying and winning runs on first and second with two outs. But with Miggy coming up and Josh-Wilson-now-in-the-role-of-V-Mart on deck, it didn't take a genius to see what would happen next. Miggy got the intentional walk, and Josh Wilson struck out.
The final-final twist? The very next day, Victor Martinez singled with two outs in the fifth inning, and Cespedes hit a ball into that right-center gap in the Comerica outfield. Victor scored from first. Surprise! He was dead the whole time! Water kills the aliens! Victor never needed a pinch runner!
That's weak sh*t. Four out of five WTF Leylands.
3. Twins 8, Tigers 6 (July 10)
I think this is the game where the baseball gods finally pulled the drain plug on the Tigers' 2015 season. Still within reach of a wild card spot, facing their direct competition in the Twins, Justin Verlander tossed a gem and the offense did its job. It was 6-1 in the ninth, and then ...
This one really hurts.
Bruce Rondon gave up a single, a double, and another single to make it 6-2. Credit Brad Ausmus, he wasn't dinking around, so he brought his closer into the game. Soria gave up a walk to load the bases, hit the next batter (6-3, y'all), gave up a two-run single (yeah, 6-5), and then served up a three-run walkoff home run to Brian Dozier.
I mean, really. You don't take a five-run lead into the ninth and then whiz it down your pant-legs if you want to compete for a wild card spot. Five full WTF Leylands.
2. Mariners 11, Tigers 9 (July 21)
If you score nine runs, you'd better be winning that ballgame, because the baseball gods hate it, hate it, hate it when teams are wasteful with their runs. The Tigers were leading 8-6 in the eighth inning when Brad Ausmus decided to drizzle a little Neftali Feliz into the recipe and see what would happen.
Here's what happened: Austin Jackson singled, Kyle Seager singled, and Robinson Cano singled to load the bases with two outs. Feliz chucked a wild pitch, everyone moved up, the score changed to 8-7, and Seth Smith drew an intentional walk to re-load the bases. (Because that always works out.)
Did Franklin Gutierrez step in for a pinch-hit grand slam? Yes, he most certainly did.
These are words that actually came out of Ausmus's mouth after the game: "I would do nothing different at all in that game," "that's exactly how I would do it again," "I can't use [Alex] Wilson [instead of Feliz], because if we go extra innings I gotta have him available," "I can't use Alex in case it goes extra innings."
Blowing a 8-6 lead is one thing. Blowing it because you put worse relievers in the game who were more likely to cause the very "tie game" scenario for which you were saving your better pitchers, even though the better pitchers would have made an extra innings game less likely to happen, which is like shooting your own hand off because you're afraid you might break a finger later, is ... where was I?
Four out of five WTF Leylands.
1. Red Sox 2, Tigers 1 (July 24)
The Red Sox came into this series opener lugging an eight-game losing streak behind them, so in theory, they were really bad at baseball and the Tigers (who were still trying to figure out at this point whether to buy or sell at the trade deadline) should have been able to pound them back like a frosty beer on a hot day.
Justin Verlander did his job, throwing eight full innings of one-run baseball. The offense, however, did the exact same thing, producing one whole run the entire game as if in some misguided tribute and homage to their Resurgent Ace.
In the eleventh inning, a single, a wild pitch, and a walk put the go-ahead runs on first and second -- Kinsler at second, Cespedes at first, to be exact -- with only one out and Victor Martinez at the plate. But this was the 2015 Tigers, and they were really, really, really, really, really, really prone to hit into inning-ending double plays, so Ausmus decided to manage this inning so very very hard and save the day. He ordered up a full-count hit-and-run that was actually, when you think about it, just an incredibly ill-advised double-steal with two runners who probably shouldn't be trying those sorts of things.
Martinez swung at ball four, Kinsler was easily thrown out at third, and tada! there's more than one way to get yourself into a double play!
Blaine Hardy came in and went "walk, bunt, single" and the Red Sox walked off with a streak-snapping win.
Not the most stunning loss, but I included this as one of the worst games because of how, when, and against whom it happened. How? Weird Ausmus strategy stuff. When? At precisely the time when the Tigers needed to beat up on a crappy team like the Red Sox and get into Wild Card position. Against whom? An atrociously bad last place team that, at this moment in the season, became a mirror and a revelation for Tigers fans. The Red Sox took two of the three games and you could only whisper in horror, "Oh my god, they're not the awful team, we are."
Three out of five WTF Leylands.
There, now wasn't that therapeutic? No? Well here, have an Sour Apple Pucker shot ...