Detroit — A large portion of the Comerica Park crowd left after Shohei Ohtani’s final at-bat in the top of the ninth Tuesday. The Angels were leading 6-2 and the Tigers, dormant offensively since the fourth inning, were down to their last three outs.
Those who left missed quite a rally.
An RBI single by Jake Rogers, who had homered earlier. A two-out RBI double by Riley Greene, who had three hits in the game, and it was suddenly 6-4. Spencer Torkelson followed with a long fly ball to the track in center field that spun center fielder Mickey Moniak around.
He was unable to make the catch and the ball fell for a game-tying, two-run ground rule double. The whole thing started with a throwing error by second baseman Luis Rengifo, so all four runs were unearned against reliever Carlos Esteves.
“I’ve come to expect it with this group,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We’re going to play the whole game. It’s a characteristic of this team to play the full 27 outs and beyond.”
The “and beyond” part didn’t go as well. The Angels plated the free runner in the top of the 10th against Alex Lange to beat the Tigers 7-6.
It was thanks to an exceptional play by catcher Rogers that the Tigers were only down a run in the bottom of the 10th. Moniak had driven in the free runner with a blistering triple down the right-field line. But he promptly got himself picked off third base.
He strayed too far on a ball that bounced only a couple feet to catcher Rogers’ right and Rogers threw a seed to third to nab Moniak.
“Incredible play,” Hinch said. “Super athletic and very heads up. It was an awkward throw. I don’t know how many catchers can make that type of athletic move with the block, then getting quick to their feet and making that throw.”
But like the four-run ninth, it ended up for naught. The Tigers, who struck out 18 times in the game, stranded the free runner at third base. Lefty Aaron Loup struck out pinch-hitters Andy Ibanez and Eric Haase to end the game.
Hinch explained why he used Haase and not Miguel Cabrera in that situation. Both are right-handed hitters.
“It would have been a two-for-one,” Hinch said, meaning if they had to play the 11th, there would be two defensive changes. “We’re still not out of that inning and we had left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup. If I’m going to lose the DH by doing a two-for-one, I’ve got to pick and chose.
“We never got to (Zach) McKinstry at the top, but I don’t really want Miggy running the bases and Miggy wasn’t going to play defense. That made the order Ibanez and then Haasey.”
Unusual that all that drama happened and Ohtani wasn’t at the center of any of it. Especially since he’d been the main topic of conversation before the game.
Hinch was asked hours before the game if there was any part of him that might actually enjoy watching Ohtani from the opposing dugout.
“No,” he said. “No chance. I’ll nod to him. I’ll say hello to him. But it’s hard. He’s the best player on the field most nights in an industry that has a lot of great players. But we’re competing. You want to beat him.”
Enjoy it? No. Respect it? Oh yes.
“He’s doing the impossible, except it’s not for him,” Hinch said. “He’s special. There aren’t too many people who have been able to do it at an extreme level. I think you should tip your cap and realize we’re playing against a generational talent who we’re going to look back and tell a lot of stories about.”
The Tigers won’t have to deal with Ohtani the pitcher. He’s in not scheduled to pitch in this series. Ohtani the hitter, though, front and center, No. 2 in the batting order.
“We will always know where he is at all times,” Hinch said. “If you take care of the people in front of him, it gives him less opportunity to do a ton of damage. There is only so much you can do against a player like that. Just get in and out of the series without too much damage.
“But he’s killing the league on both sides and I hope he continues in four days.”
Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez walked Ohtani twice in his rocky 4.2 innings. Ohtani scored both times. So, he hurts you even when you pitch around him.
Rodriguez ended up allowing four runs and seven hits. He also walked three and struck out three. That he threw 90 pitches and didn’t get through five innings was an indication that he didn’t have his usual precise command.
“I felt like my command was all over the place the whole game,” Rodriguez said. “The command of my pitches was off. I tried to battle as long as I could. These things happen. It was one of those games we had to battle through it.”
It’s possible this was his last game in a Tigers’ uniform. His next start is slated for Aug. 1, the trade deadline day.
“I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “I’m just going out and trying to pitch. Now I have to get ready for my next start.”
Because of a power outage at Comerica Park, there was no Statcast data available. Nor was there video replay capability until the seventh inning. Any disputed calls up to that point would’ve been settled by managers’ or crew chief challenges.
“They thought we might lose the (pitch) clock, too,” Hinch said. “And maybe the scoreboard and they were worried about the lights.”
The clock, scoreboard (minus the radar gun readings) and lights stayed intact. The television broadcast and the MLB wireless modem were out until the seventh. Strange night on a lot of levels.