ATLANTA -- The Tigers had their struggles against Braves starter Aaron Blair, and their own bullpen in the sixth and seventh. And yet, for all the hand-wringing about situations in a 5-3 loss to the Braves that cost them control of their postseason fate, they had the scenario they wanted
ATLANTA -- The Tigers had their struggles against Braves starter Aaron Blair, and their own bullpen in the sixth and seventh. And yet, for all the hand-wringing about situations in a 5-3 loss to the Braves that cost them control of their postseason fate, they had the scenario they wanted in the eighth with a 5-2 deficit.
Bases loaded. Nobody out. Miguel Cabrera up. J.D. Martinez on deck.
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The fact that they ended up with no runs out of it was still bedeviling them well after the game was over.
"It's just frustrating, obviously," Martinez said, "but we gave ourselves the best chance in that situation. We did a great job. Guys in front of us, they went to three-four and got out of it, bases loaded. Give me that situation again, I'll take that every time."
The situation came about thanks to a wild three-batter sequence from Braves reliever Mauricio Cabrera, who threw up to 101 mph, but with seemingly little idea where it was going. After a leadoff double from Erick Aybar, he walked Ian Kinsler and Cameron Maybin in a span of nine pitches.
Up came Miguel Cabrera, whose playoff-race heroics have been playing out all week. Out came Braves manager Brian Snitker to change pitchers.
"When they switched the pitcher, when the manager called to the bullpen, he went like this," said Cabrera mimicking a slider option with his hand. "So we know he's going to throw a lot of sliders. But he threw good ones."
Though Chaz Roe has bounced around the big leagues, he had never faced Cabrera. Likewise, Cabrera had never faced him. He knew the breaking ball was his pitch, but he hadn't seen the movement.
Cabrera saw four sliders.
"When you face a pitcher like that, you have to see some pitches," he said. "It's the first time I faced the guy, so I see the first pitch. I thought the second strike was a ball. He got me quickly 0-2 and threw me two good sliders away after that. With the second, I thought he was he going to throw something hard, but he kept with the best pitch he has, the slider, and he got me."
Cabrera went down swinging, just his second strikeout since his first at-bat Monday night. But the Tigers still had bases loaded with one out for Martinez -- hitless since Wednesday and a strikeout victim his previous six at-bats, but with a threat to change the game with one swing.
He tried to do that with the first pitch and made contact. He hit it on a line at Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, who picked it quickly to start an inning-ending double play.
"I strike out six times in a row and I finally hit one," Martinez lamented, "and it's like I really wish I would have struck out there to get it to [Justin Upton], you know? It was just right at him. If that ball goes through, it's a different ballgame."
Said Cabrera: "We keep fighting. J.D. hit a ball hard after me and the shortstop made an unbelievable play and they made the double play. It would be different if that ball gets past the hole. I think if that happens, I think we win the game."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.