Tigers benefit from call, rally late to sink Red Sox
Nava's error on apparent catch leads to Hunter's go-ahead sac fly
DETROIT -- Another late comeback against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon propelled the Tigers to a 7-5 win at Comerica Park in front of a sold-out crowd of 41,507.
While the back-and-forth game featured three ties and three lead changes, there were bizarre plays in the late innings that won't be forgotten anytime soon.
In the seventh inning, Austin Jackson hit a leadoff single before Torii Hunter hit a line drive to a leaping Dustin Pedroia at second. Pedroia dropped the ball, while Jackson retreated to first base. Pedroia threw to first, causing the forceout on Hunter, but not a double play because he didn't tag Jackson beforehand.
"We talk about this rule in Spring Training," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "In my morning session, every once in a while we talk about a rule, and that's one of the rules that we've talked about. If you're at the base and something like that happens, it's your base. Stay there. Do not depart that base. They wanted Austin to step off and tag him, too, for a double play. I'm glad that we went over that. I don't know if that went through his mind today, but yeah, it was a really good play."
Said Jackson: "I had no clue what to do, I have to be honest with you. I'm glad I didn't come off the bag."
Jackson later came around to score when Jhonny Peralta was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
In the eighth, Avisail Garcia led off with a fly ball to deep right. Daniel Nava appeared to make the catch and dropped it when he transferred the ball to his throwing hand, but second-base umpire Mike DiMuro ruled that Nava never made the catch, and Garcia ended up on second base on a two-base error.
"Clearly, the call was missed. He caught it," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He went to transfer to his throwing hand, dropped it at that point. It wasn't like it was an instantaneous movement."
Despite protests from the Red Sox, including Farrell, who was ejected, the call stood, and the umpires defended the call after seeing replays.
"To have a catch, you have to have complete control and voluntary release," crew chief Ted Barrett said. "Mike [DiMuro] had him with control, but did not have the voluntary release. When he flipped the ball out of his glove, he never got it into his hand. That's not voluntary release."
Garcia eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Torii Hunter before Prince Fielder's two-run single gave Detroit a 7-4 lead.
The late rally allowed the Tigers to pick up Justin Verlander, who struggled through five innings, allowing four earned runs. Verlander exited after throwing 112 pitches.
Verlander struggled with his offspeed command; he only got one swing and miss on the 23 changeups he threw. Throughout the season, batters have swung through his changeup nearly 18 percent of the time, according to BrooksBaseball. He only forced Boston's hitters into a total of six swings and misses, while they fouled off 28 pitches.
"The stuff is there, just a lot of location really," Verlander said. "The offspeed stuff wasn't very good today, the changeup and curveball weren't very good. It's just leaving a lot of stuff over the middle of the plate, whether it being to put guys away or early in the count, or whatever it is."
It's the fifth time in nine starts that Verlander hasn't pitched more than five innings. During the past two seasons, he pitched longer than five innings in all but one of his starts.
"He continues to have command issues," Leyland said. "That's the only issue. It's not a stuff issue or anything else. It's a command issue for him. But today none of the repertoire was really getting where he wanted it to go."
Despite the command issues, Verlander found a silver lining.
"The one positive, though, I was able to limit the big inning," Verlander said. "There were opportunities for those guys to blow it open early, and I was able to make some pitches when I really needed to keep us in the ballgame. That's what it's all about with this team, because we can obviously score runs in a hurry."
Reliever Drew Smyly followed Verlander with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Leyland planned on only pitching Smyly one inning so he could use him for Tuesday's game against the Angels. However, Verlander's short start didn't allow him to do so with a taxed bullpen.
"I had to change the plan a little bit," Leyland said. "See, the key with him for me is to get him one inning at an important time and be successful and then get him an inning the very next day at an important time and be successful. He can go back-to-back if he pitches one inning, but when his pitch count gets up to 35, 38, 39 pitches, then I lose him for a couple days. So it's not a perfect situation just yet, but we're working on it."
Although Sunday's game may not have gone to plan, the Tigers made it work.