Tigers-Phils rundown devolves into madness

March 27th, 2021

Sometimes late in Spring Training, as teams set their rosters and players start looking ahead to the regular season, crazy games happen. But somewhere on the Tigers’ and Phillies’ marches to Opening Day, they walked, ran, stumbled and scrambled through a bizarre eighth inning.

“It was a wild Spring Training game that obviously ended in our favor,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said after Detroit’s 9-8 win at Joker Marchant Field in Lakeland, Fla. “But what a mess.”

Detroit’s eighth-inning rally included eight runs, three hits, seven walks -- including four in a row with the bases loaded -- three pitching changes and a hit-by-pitch. But the highlight of it all was a chaotic double rundown that resulted in absolutely nothing.

The game wasn’t televised, so evidence that this play ever happened is limited to Dan Dickerson’s call on the Tigers' radio network and this video clip from Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press:

The Tigers had at bat for the second time in the inning, having been hit by a pitch earlier, with the potential tying run on third. The Phillies -- who held an 8-1 lead going into the bottom half of the inning and a 99.6 percent win probability according to Statcast -- had forced in back-to-back runs via walks and turned to prospect Julian Garcia after walked all three batters he faced.

Garcia threw a pitch past catcher and to the backstop. Tigers prospect Ryan Kreidler took off from third but turned back when the ball took a hard bounce back to Bethancourt a few steps from home plate. By the time noticed, he was already a couple of steps from third, having taken off from second.

Bethancourt fired to second base to start the rundown with Greiner. Kreidler danced back off third, trying to draw a throw from third baseman . He got it when Williams fired home to Bethancourt.

Kreidler looked like a sure out when Bethancourt fired to in front of third base. But when Garcia tried to apply the tag to Kreidler, the ball popped out of his glove and rolled into foul territory behind the bag. Left fielder Matt Vierling was alert enough to back up the play and fielded the ball near the tarp in time to throw home and chase Kreidler back to third. Greiner was standing on the bag, but he had enough time to scramble back to second in front of center fielder Travis Jankowski. By that point, all the outfielders were on the infield.

“Obviously, never give up on the play,” Hinch said, “but didn’t really anticipate any of that coming. We had the highs of the ball going to the backstop and then Greiner got to third, and Kreidler went back to third and created a mess. Saw two different rundowns in one play, a ball get ricocheted up into the net and then a walk right afterward. Just ... what a mess.”

Officially, it was a no-play. No out was registered, no runners advanced and no error was given. But the misplay continued the inning for two more bases-loaded walks, putting the Tigers in front for an eventual win that included a combined 17 runs, 16 hits, 17 walks and 21 strikeouts.

By rule, the managers had the option of rolling over that inning and going to the ninth. Hinch said he tried to get Girardi’s attention from dugout to dugout to see if he wanted to do that, having noticed the Phillies' bullpen was just about empty.

“I can put myself in Joe’s spot, because we’ve all been there in Spring Training,” Hinch said. “You’re managing it two different ways at this time in Spring Training: You’re managing your players that are going to break [camp] with you, and then you’re trying to just manage the game and kind of get through the game in a development standpoint. He was obviously trying to do that, but we’ve all been there where we get a little bit nervous and a guy can’t find it. So it’s miserable.”