Chicago — As AJ Hinch said afterward, if you stay around this game long enough, you’re going to see all kinds of crazy things.
The Tigers and White Sox played a game Saturday in which all the runs were scored on wild pitches. That, according to Elias Sports Bureau, has never happened in the live ball era (since 1920).
“You don’t see that, especially in a low-scoring game when everything matters,” Hinch said after the Tigers lost to the White Sox, 2-1, on a walk-off wild pitch that hit and knocked over home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the bottom of the 10th inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I haven’t seen that. But it happened today. It’s definitely a bad way to lose.”
After the Tigers stranded the free runner in the top of the 10th, it appeared reliever Jose Cisnero would wriggle out of trouble in the bottom of the inning.
Romy Gonzalez’s sacrifice bunt advanced the free runner Yoan Moncada to third base and the Tigers brought right-fielder Zach McKinstry into the infield, deploying five infielders and two outfielders. The positioning worked. Yasmani Grandal, after an 11-pitch battle with Cisnero, bounced out to second base and the runner held at third.
Hinch issued an intentional walk to left-handed hitting Gavin Sheets, for the second time in the game, to set up a match-up with Jake Burger. But Cisnero hit Burger to load the bases. Which brought up the ever-dangerous Tim Anderson.
Cisnero’s first pitch to Anderson crossed up catcher Eric Haase so completely he didn’t even get his glove on it. The ball hit Blaser and rolled toward the Tigers dugout. Moncada scored without a play.
“We were trying to go slider,” Haase said. “Cis said he heard sinker. Pretty close, I guess. But that was an unfortunate spot to be in. I hope Cory is OK. I’m not sure where it hit him and I’m not sure where the ball went. There was a lot of chaos going on.”
Using the PitchCom to call pitches, this type of miscommunication is rare. But the replay clearly shows Haase dropping his glove to the ground expecting Cisnero’s cutter-slider, which he typically throws at 87 mph. Instead, Cisnero lost his two-seam sinker to his arm side. It was 96 mph up and in.
Blaser was knocked completely over by the pitch but he got up and left the field on his own accord. According to MLB, he was held for observation afterward.
“It was one of those days,” said Haase, who had two of starter Michael Lorenzen’s pitches bounce past him, the second one scoring a run, in the fourth inning. “It was tough to handle balls behind the plate today. (The dirt in front of the plate) was really hard. There were a lot of bad hops everywhere. Balls ate up (first baseman Spencer) Torkelson the last couple of days to where he didn’t even get glove on it.
“Just a tough day for baseball.”
The Tigers, who have scored just four runs in the three games since Riley Greene went out with stress reaction in his left fibula, stranded their free runner at second base in the top of the 10th. After Nick Maton walked, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez dispatched three straight right-handed hitters — Zack Short, Jonathan Schoop and Jake Marisnick,
With Greene out, all the left-handed hitters were in the starting lineup.
“That was our bench,” Hinch said. “Those guys in the game, Shorty and Jake swung the bat pretty well today. We just didn’t come up with the big hit.”
Hinch explained why he didn’t have Short try to bunt the runner to third base.
“On the road, it’s tough to give an out away at the bottom half of our order right now,” he said. “Especially when we are struggling to get something going. It is what it is. We have to find a different way.”
For a minute, the way the Tigers’ offense was being locked up by Chicago starter Dylan Cease, it looked like the Lorenzen might get beat by an inning in which he struck out the heart of the White Sox order but still allowed a run on a pair of two-out wild pitches.
There was no score when Andrew Benintendi singled to lead off the fourth inning. It was second and last hit Chicago mustered off Lorenzen.
Lorenzen proceeded to strike out Luis Robert Jr. (who is 0-for-19 with 10 strikeouts against the Tigers this season) and Eloy Jimenez. On strike three to Jimenez, Benintendi stole second without drawing a throw.
In the process of striking out Moncada, Lorenzen spiked two breaking balls. Both bounced past Haase.
“Just very tough,” Haase said. “I feel like we wasted back-to-back solid outings by our pitchers. We need to do a better job of swinging the bat and keeping pressure on these guys. Our guys are throwing the ball way too good not to be getting decisions. We need to step up for them.”
Lorenzen painted a most impressive encore to his near-perfecto against the White Sox last week at Comerica Park, when he ended up allowing just two unearned runs in 6.2 innings. The gifted run in the fourth was the only one he allowed in seven innings. He gave up just two hits with no walks and struck out six. He carved up the White Sox lineup with a mix of sliders, four-seam fastballs and sinkers. He also skillfully mixed in sweepers and change-ups.
Seventeen balls were put in play against him with a mild average exit velocity of 85.7 mph.
“These were singular games for Lo,” Hinch said. “We weren’t trying to overthink it and work off last week’s game plan. Just attack with Lo’s best stuff. He did a really good job of pitching to these guys … When Michael is in control of his pitches like he was today, his mixing and matching was almost perfect.”
The Tigers managed three hits in the game. Their lone run came in the sixth when McKinstry led off with a triple and scored on a wild pitch.
“Every loss is frustrating,” Hinch said. “We had a tough time against Cease today. But when you get the free runner in the 10th as the visiting team, you have to do something with that. We didn’t push anything across and that puts a lot of pressure on us in the bottom of the 10th.”