Tigers bullpen unable to protect Smyly's lead
Reed loads bases, Krol gives up grand slam in decisive seventh
DETROIT -- With two outs in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday, and the bases loaded for the White Sox, the fans at Comerica Park began to do the wave. It was an odd juxtaposition to see during the tensest at-bat of the game.
Lefty reliever Ian Krol served up a grand slam on a fastball to Chicago's Marcus Semien, and the wave suddenly took on new meaning. The Detroit bullpen said goodbye to the two-run lead that Tigers starter Drew Smyly had exited with, and the White Sox secured a 6-4 victory.
"I kind of just laid it in there, and it was up," Krol said. "What every hitter's looking for 3-1, to be honest with you. Made a mistake there."
Evan Reed relieved Smyly in the seventh and gave up two singles and a walk, before exiting for Krol. With one out and the bases loaded, Krol got Jordan Danks to foul out to third, holding the runners. But Semien knocked a 3-1 pitch over the left-field fence, stopping the wave before it made it twice around the park.
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said he didn't consider bringing in a righty to face the right-handed-hitting Semien, citing an insignificant difference in his splits. He also noted that Chicago still had Adam Dunn on its bench from the left side of the plate, should the Tigers have gone to a righty.
"It stinks, absolutely. Also, I grew up a Cubs fan, so that's kind of a downer," Krol said of blowing the game against the Cubs' crosstown rival.
The first inning of Smyly's night looked hauntingly similar to the beginning of his first start. His pitch count again climbed quickly as he threw 30 pitches in the first inning. He served up another two-run homer, a monster blast to center by Chicago slugger Jose Abreu. But, whereas fatigue set in during his loss to the Angels last week, Smyly grew more comfortable as the game wore on Wednesday.
Ausmus said he and pitching coach Jeff Jones had decided on about a 100-pitch cap for Smyly. After the first inning, it looked as if he might be in for another short night, but Smyly lasted by throwing 62 pitches from the second through six innings. Ausmus said Smyly was "outstanding" in his final three frames.
"It's tough when they get you in the first, especially after my last start," Smyly said. "I thought I did a pretty good job after giving up that home run of settling down and keeping it under control."
The difference for Smyly was his breaking ball. The lefty's ability to keep his curveball down in the zone and in on the White Sox righties contributed to his solid night
"That's the pitch I really needed," Smyly said, adding he threw the curveball "efficiently ... Tonight, I thought I, for the most part, kept it down, kept them off balance and it was pretty sharp for me."
Twice, Smyly even managed to strike out Abreu, who also homered to the center-field bushes off Justin Verlander in the first inning of Tuesday night's game. Smyly struck out seven over six innings. He allowed no more runs after Abreu's shot and, unlike his first outing, looked worthy of the fifth spot in the rotation.
The White Sox helped Smyly by running themselves into a couple of outs, potentially sparing the Tigers an even larger early hole. Danks was caught stealing second in the second inning, and Leury Garcia was caught swiping third in the third. Smyly really began to gain confidence, however, when he pitched out of a fourth-inning jam.
Chicago put runners on second and third with one out, threatening to add on to its 2-0 lead. Alejandro De Aza hit a soft liner that Smyly snagged before throwing over to third and catching Dayan Viciedo off the bag to complete the inning-ending double play.
"That was great timing," Smyly said. "I needed that one."
The twin killing seemed to put some life into the Tigers offense, which needed to play comeback as the opponents scored in the first inning for the fourth time in five games. A single by Miguel Cabrera, his fourth hit in the past two games, helped Detroit place two men in scoring position. J.D. Martinez, fresh up from Triple-A Toledo, knocked a single up the middle, tying the game at 2. Then Austin Jackson took the first offering from White Sox starter Andre Rienzo and put it in the Chicago bullpen for his second homer.
Trailing, 6-4, in the ninth, the Tigers put runners on second and third with two outs. But Alex Avila lined out to first on a 3-0 pitch to end the game.
Ausmus said his catcher had the green light despite the count.
"He took a good swing at it," Ausmus said. "It was an aggressive swing. He hit a line drive. Sometimes you hit it hard and it gets caught. But I felt the way he's swinging, he had a chance to win the game right there."