DETROIT -- The Cleveland Indians ambushed the Detroit Tigers in the sixth inning. Defensive miscommunication between the Tigers infielders and an awareness by Indians manager Terry Francona led to three runs, and eventually the 4-0 loss on Sunday afternoon.
New kid on the block Dixon Machado and the corner infielders were running two separate plays. With Francisco Lindor at the plate having squared to bunt twice, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus saw a problem and he went out to straighten it out before things got worse. Unfortunately, straightening it out was the head's up that Francona needed.
"I took the bunt after the first pitch, but Frankie (Lindor) kept trying to bunt, because he's a young guy and he's trying to do the right thing," Francona said after the game. "After the second pitch, when Brad (Ausmus) came out, I knew they were trying to fix their bunt play, so I yelled from the dugout until I got Frankie's attention and told him to swing. I knew he was going to get a good pitch to hit there."
Obviously it was a signal that the Tigers didn't see. Justin Verlander was aware of the possibility that Lindor would swing away and it'd been in the back of his mind. It was, in fact, the reason he pitched inside on the second pitch to Lindor just in case he wasn't bunting. But when he didn't and Verlander started his windup to deliver the third pitch, Lindor said he knew he was getting a fastball.
That fastball wound up nearly down the heart of the plate because Verlander was expecting Lindor to bunt for a base hit. But when Verlander put his leg up and looked home only to see Lindor doing everything but bunting, well, at that point it's too late.
Was it the wrong decision to clear up the confusion, though? No. Either way, the Tigers needed to get their plays straightened out, and in September when the team is in last place, these are the things that need to be taken care of without a title on the line. Everyone thought that Lindor would be bunting, including Verlander. So, for Ausmus to come out to the mound for a visit, it wasn't a decision that frustrated him in the least.
"No I'm actually glad (Ausmus) came out because, two different pitches and two different things going on," Verlander said. "We needed to get everybody on the same page. Obviously it's a big part of the game and you gotta tip your cap for Lindor there, and Tito (Francona) gave him the green light. He executed it when the whole world thought he was bunting."