CHICAGO -- June 13, 2018.
That was the last time Robbie Grossman committed an error.
In the 440 games since, the Tigers’ outfielder has been a testament to perfection on defense, going errorless longer than any position player in the history of Major League Baseball.
But all good things must come to an end, and Grossman’s historic streak snapped at an incredibly inopportune time for Detroit.
The 32-year-old misplayed a high fly in the eighth inning, appearing to lose it in the sun before it bounced off his glove for the first error charged to him in more than four years. The gaffe was all the fuel the White Sox needed to rally for a 4-2 win on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“Just a popup, and I missed it,” Grossman said, refusing to use the elements as an excuse. “That’s what it comes down to. I missed a popup, and that's a terrible play on my part.”
The idea of Detroit losing on a fielding miscue from Grossman appeared the least likely outcome considering his sparkling history in the field. He had long since lapped fellow position player Nick Markakis, who held the previous record for longest streak without an error (398 games). On top of that, the play itself looked routine off the bat.
With the score tied at 2 and no one on in the bottom of the 8th, White Sox outfielder Luis Robert got under a two-out pitch from reliever Michael Fulmer. Robert, under the belief it would be the final out of the inning, hung his head as he left the batter’s box. Grossman had a bead on the ball but lost track and had to run 90 feet to attempt a play that had a 99 percent catch probability, per Statcast. As the ball caromed off of his glove, Robert scampered to second to put the Tigers in a late-inning jam.
“[Grossman] just missed it,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Obviously, we're playing deep, no doubles, to try to keep Robert off of second base. So, he had to come a little bit of a long way. Looked like the wind knocked it down a little bit, and then it just looked like he missed it.”
Detroit walked José Abreu to create a forceout situation before bringing in newly crowned All-Star reliever Gregory Soto. But Grossman’s error came back to haunt the Tigers one pitch later. AJ Pollock laced the first offering he saw from Soto just past the outstretched glove of a diving Jonathan Schoop, plating the go-ahead run for Chicago.
Eloy Jiménez added a run with a single in the following at-bat, giving the White Sox all the cushion they needed to split the four-game series.
“Obviously, we missed some opportunities offensively,” Hinch said, “and then gave them an extra out at a really bad time of the game where they're in the middle of the order. Wanted no part of Abreu, and then Pollock comes off the bench facing Soto and hits a hopper. Credit to them, of course, but we opened the door for them and made some mistakes.”
Starter Drew Hutchison gave Detroit six solid innings on the mound, striking out three while allowing just two earned runs. The journeyman pitcher has been huge for the Tigers amid a grueling stretch in their schedule, logging his longest start since July 7, 2016.
Javier Báez provided the only Tigers offense, launching a two-run homer on the sixth pitch of the game from White Sox starter Michael Kopech. The former Cubs shortstop was serenaded the entire weekend with boos from the South Side faithful, but the jeers only seemed to fuel him offensively throughout the series.
Still, the finale will be remembered for an unfortunate slip from a player who’s made a habit out of avoiding them longer than anyone in big league history. Grossman was quick to admit that record was the last thing on his mind afterward: He had already shifted focus toward coming through for Detroit the next time the opportunity arises.
“I didn't think of it at all,” Grossman said of his now-broken streak. “I’m not going to make any excuses. It's a play that has to be made, and I’ll make it the next time.”