DETROIT -- Francisco Rodríguez was still in full uniform as reporters waited to talk with him Saturday. He sat at his locker, trying to collect his thoughts, to process what had happened.
He owns 430 career saves, more than anyone currently in a Major League uniform and fourth-most in MLB history. He has 71 blown saves along the way. Even after 15 seasons, the blown saves crush him.
"Painful, digusting, shame, everything," Rodriguez said when asked to summarize his feelings.
He's tougher on himself than anyone else. And Saturday's 7-4 Tigers loss to the Royals, a game that was a 4-2 Detroit lead with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, hit him hard.
"It's definitely a bad position to fail the way I failed today," Rodriguez said. "Just unacceptable. One pitch away, one strike away, and I couldn't make one pitch. The result of that is obviously five runs after two outs, and pretty much the game wrapped up. This one hurts, big time."
The one pitch was his 2-2 delivery to Paulo Orlando, but a multitude of situations brought him to that point.
The last time the Royals saw Rodriguez, they nearly dealt him a similar fate, putting the tying run at third with one out before Alex Gordon and Orlando crushed ground balls that Ian Kinsler and Andrew Romine fielded -- in Kinsler's case, off his finger -- for outs. They came in looking for pitches they could hit hard, especially changeups.
Gordon started the rally with an opposite-field single off a 2-0 fastball. Alcides Escobar swung and missed at back-to-back fastballs before lofting a ball down the right-field line that J.D. Martinez ran down. Rookie Hunter Dozier hit a changeup through the left side to put the tying run on base, but Rodriguez changed speeds on Daniel Nava for a strikeout.
Up came Orlando, again as the potential final batter. He fell into an 0-2 hole chasing low pitches before shrugging off changeups near his feet to run the count to 2-2. Pinch-runner Terrance Gore's presence at first base, a speedster representing the tying run, impacted Rodriguez's plan.
He did not want a full count and Gore running on his pitch.
"You go 3-2, the runners are going to be in motion," Rodriguez said. "Anything in the gap, or in between the gap, the guy from first is going to score. So you want to stay out of the 3-2 count."
Rodriguez went back to his changeup low, but at the knees, around the strike zone. Orlando golfed it, and not even a no-doubles defense could get center fielder Cameron Maybin back in time.
The swing didn't surprise Rodriguez.
"He barreled the ball out front," Rodriguez said. "What surprised me is it went over the center fielder's head."
From there, as Rodriguez put it, "The wheels came off."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was going to stick with Rodriguez unless they were trailing. If the game had been tied to start the ninth, the thought went, he would've gone to Rodriguez anyway. Cheslor Cuthbert's five-pitch walk brought up Eric Hosmer, who crushed a three-run homer.
"I let my team down today, simple as that," Rodriguez said. "I let everybody down. That's why I want to apologize to them. That's unacceptable, especially in the position that we're in right now. Definitely this one's on me, big time."
The Tigers weren't so willing to let him take it all on his shoulders.
"Win as a team, lose as a team," said Maybin. "We get the chance to come back and strap it up and win the series, man. That's the most important thing."
Said Ausmus: "Frankie had an off day. You're going to have an off day from time to time. He's been outstanding. We wouldn't be here without him."