DENVER -- It's not easy to put a finger on a single factor that changed the Tigers' fate in 2017, but manager Brad Ausmus has a candidate.And despite high-impact injuries to the likes of J.D. Martinez (strained foot) and Jose Cabrera (ongoing back issues), it's not an injury that surely
DENVER -- It's not easy to put a finger on a single factor that changed the Tigers' fate in 2017, but manager Brad Ausmus has a candidate.
And despite high-impact injuries to the likes of J.D. Martinez (strained foot) and Jose Cabrera (ongoing back issues), it's not an injury that surely changed the course of Detroit's season.
"Out of the gate, J.D.'s injury hurt us," Ausmus said before Wednesday's rubber match with the Rockies. "We're talking about seven weeks for one of the best offensive players in the game. And Miggy's had the recurring back issues where he's missed some time and probably hampered him from a performance standpoint."
For Ausmus, it's a much more specific moment that affected the team's sense of themselves and deflated the momentum they'd been building early in the season.
Going into the April 19 game against the Rays in St. Petersburg, the Tigers had been in first place for more than a week, owning sole possession of it for three days.
Detroit led 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth with closer Francisco Rodriguez starting the inning. After a leadoff walk and a double, Rodriguez intentionally walked the bases loaded and struck out Steven Souza Jr. to face Logan Morrison. Morrison grounded to second, Ian Kinsler threw to Jose Iglesias for the first out, but Iglesias tripped on the bag, making a wild throw to first and allowing the tying and winning runs to score.
"I would like to see how our season went if Iggy doesn't trip turning the double play in Tampa," Ausmus said. "I'd like to see how the season went if that one play was different.
"They ended up with the bases loaded. We had a ground ball that would have been a double play to end it. We'd have won the game. Instead, we lost the game, lost four in a row. He hit the bag funny and he ends up tripping and falling and trying to make the throw. The ball gets away. They score two runs and we lose the game.
"If that double play got turned, if you could go back in time, it would be interesting to see what the team trajectory was after that."
Ausmus was clear that he wasn't assigning any blame for the freak error. But it was the last day the Tigers held sole possession of first place, and it contributed to a 4-8 end of April that found them in fourth place, just 10 days after the key game.
"We were doing pretty well," Ausmus said. "Now, maybe it wouldn't have made a lick of difference, but I wish I could go back and see what the team trajectory would have been after that."
• Ausmus expects to add a couple Minor League players when rosters expand on Friday, and expected a "standard number" of additions after the Triple-A season ends on Monday.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver and covered the Tigers on Wednesday.