Tigers battle Greene’s absence in extra-innings loss

Detroit Tigers

CHICAGO — The Tigers have talked about trying to find different ways to win without star center fielder Riley Greene. On Saturday, they ended up with an unprecedented way to lose.

As Detroit tried to regroup from a 10th-inning hit-by-pitch on a replay review that loaded the bases with two outs, catcher Eric Haase squatted for José Cisnero’s first-pitch slider to White Sox All-Star Tim Anderson. Instead, Cisnero threw a fastball that sailed up and in. 

“I was trying to go slider. Cis said he heard sinker,” Haase said. “Obviously pretty close, but an unfortunate spot to be in.”

It didn’t hit Anderson, but it was out of Haase’s reach as well. The ball hit home-plate umpire Cory Blaser on the fly, knocking the mask off his face and knocking him over as Yoán Moncada dashed home with the game-winning run.

It was the third run-scoring wild pitch in the 2-1 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field. Both starters, Michael Lorenzen and Dylan Cease, had wild pitches account for their lone run allowed. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time a game in the Live Ball Era featured three or more runs that all scored via wild pitch and/or passed ball.

“You stick around long enough, you’re going to see a lot of things,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, “but it’s definitely a bad way to lose.”

It’s not just bad for a pitch-calling mixup to account for a game-winning run. The Tigers’ frustrations lie as much in their inability to drive runners home, a season-long issue that has been accentuated with Greene injured.

The Tigers haven’t recorded an RBI in the 21 innings since Jake Marisnick’s sixth-inning single in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers. They’re 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position through two games of this series, including three chances Saturday in the top of the 10th inning with the potential go-ahead run on second against Reynaldo López, a White Sox reliever they beat in extra innings with a Haase sacrifice fly on Sunday at Comerica Park.

This time, Haase was on second base to begin the inning. Nick Maton worked a walk to create a chance for a big inning, but López retired right-handed hitters Zack Short (fly ball to right), Jonathan Schoop (first-pitch popout to short) and Marisnick (groundout to short).

“You get the free baserunner in the 10th. As a visiting team, you have to do something with that if you want any sort of leverage going into the bottom half of the inning,” Hinch said.

Nearly as rare as Saturday’s wild pitches was the lack of a pinch-hit move by Hinch. Detroit used nine hitters with no substitutions for just the sixth time this season. The Tigers have created favorable matchups all year with hitters off their bench, especially left-handed hitters against right-handed pitchers. With Greene out, Detroit has just three left-handed hitters available, all of whom were in the top six spots in Saturday’s lineup against Cease.

While Hinch has mixed and matched in several spots, Greene was one of the few constants of the Tigers’ lineup, not only facing all kinds of pitchers but hitting in the heart of the order. So far, Marisnick has started all three games in center since Greene was sidelined. Marisnick is 3-for-10 as a Tiger. Akil Baddoo, who has moved into the middle of the order in Greene’s absence, is 1-for-9 with two walks and no strikeouts. Zach McKinstry is 2-for-13 with two runs scored. Maton is 2-for-9 with a pair of walks and five strikeouts.

Right-handed hitters have largely struggled in recent days. The Tigers need one or more to step up in less-favorable matchups against right-handed pitching to help the balance.

“Even if Riley was healthy, you can’t just rely on one guy to be the presence, so we were going to need that regardless,” Hinch said. “But it does lead to a need for somebody to have a great month, a great series, a great stretch.

“I think without Greene, without [Austin] Meadows, without [Kerry] Carpenter specifically, the left-handed presence in our lineup is being challenged. And that’s where you’d like Nick [Maton] to get going. Obviously, Akil has had a really good stretch; McKinstry’s been incredible. But to truly have balance in your lineup and have the ability to move in and around different matchups, balance is key.”

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