Miami — There was a lot to sift through in the rubble of the Tigers’ dispiriting 8-6 loss in the series finale against the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
They were up 4-0, then down 5-4, then back up 6-5. But when the 27th out was logged, by the Marlins’ newly-acquired closer David Robertson, it felt like opportunity lost.
“We had plenty of opportunity to win the game,” manager AJ Hinch said. “And also we couldn’t get out of own way a couple of times. There were mishaps here and there, mistakes to the wrong hitters at the wrong time and they hit the ball out of the park at the end.
“It was a winnable series we didn’t win.”
The deciding blow was a two-run home run by Garrett Cooper in the seventh inning. Lefty Tyler Holton hadn’t allowed a run since June 29, a span of 11 outings. He hardly ever throws his curveball, only 4.3% of the time, and hitters were 0-for-6 against it.
But ahead in the count 1-2, he flipped a curveball to the right-handed hitting Cooper. The ball flew 407 feet over the wall in left-center field.
“We had a couple of options, but it’s the classic end-of-the-at-bat (second guess) when it doesn’t go our way,” Hinch said. “He hadn’t seen that breaking ball. He hadn’t faced Holton in this series. But he won the battle.”
Jean Segura added an insurance marker off reliever Jose Cisnero in the eighth, pounding a home run onto the berm in dead center field. Cisnero has allowed a homer in three of his last four outings.
“When you have these close games, everything matters,” Hinch said. “Whether it’s extra bases, whether it’s reads and leads, whether it’s the slide at home plate. They executed the plays.”
The plays. Earlier in the game, when the Tigers were up 4-0, Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez threw out Andy Ibanez (third inning) and Riley Greene (fifth) at the plate. Ibanez looked like he got a slow break off third after the ball deflected off the pitcher. Greene thought he was safe, but replay didn’t agree.
Then there was the botched rundown in the sixth inning that led to the Marlins taking a 5-4 lead.
With reliever Brendan White pitching, Jon Berti reached on a throwing error by third baseman Zach McKinstry and advanced on a wild pitch. But he overran second base and got caught in a rundown between second and third.
It appeared that Berti intentionally forced contact with Tigers’ second baseman Zack Short. As he was running toward third base, he looked back at Short who had the ball and was chasing him. Berti stopped and seemed to lunge back into Short, who had just thrown the ball to McKinstry.
The umpires called interference on Short and awarded Berti third base. He scored the go-ahead run on a single by Garcia.
“On the video, it looked like I was pretty close to him,” Short said. “I guess if I took a few more steps I could’ve tagged him. But I felt like he launched himself a few feet back. I know you are kind of taught that, in a way (as a base runner). I guess it was smart. But I didn’t agree with it.
“He drew (the contact). It’s hard not to see intent when you launch yourself like that. But it is what it is. We’ve got to complete the play.”
Hinch ran out to argue with third-base umpire Jansen Visconti and crew chief Ron Kulpa.
“It is a smart play if the umpire doesn’t call it (obstruction on the runner),” Hinch said. “I wanted to know what he saw. Obviously I saw the reaction of our players. Generally speaking in those plays, the runner is always trying to create obstruction and create an issue. He did that.
“But we didn’t execute the rundown. It’s a judgment call on whether the runner creates the contact but we gave him the opportunity by being in the way.”
The Tigers recovered from that initially. Kerry Carpenter, with a clutch lefty vs. lefty at-bat in the top of the seventh, slapped a two-run single off reliever A.J. Puk, putting the Tigers up 6-5.
Miguel Cabrera, who played his final game in his hometown ballpark Sunday, went first to third on Carpenter’s single. He was given a standing ovation after he was replaced by a pinch-runner Akil Baddoo. But, that run died there, like several others.
The Tigers were 4 for 16 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base.
“It’s just tough,” Short said. “We were up 4-0 and then Carp got us back in it. I left a bunch of guys on base (twice). That can’t happen in those situations. It would have been good to get this one today.”
It had to feel like deja vu for Tigers’ starter Tarik Skubal. He had breezed through the first four innings, facing the minimum 12 hitters, but he did not finish the fifth. The Marlins KO’d him with four runs, rapping five straight hits.
It was reminiscent of Skubal’s five-run blowup in the fourth inning in Kansas City on July 18.
“Pretty frustrating,” Skubal said. “We’re up 4-0 and I don’t do a good job of stopping the bleeding there. That’s on me. We scored a ton of runs today and we didn’t win a game. Similar to the outing in Kansas City. I have to learn from it. I have to learn how to stop it.”
His downfall started wihen former Tiger Avisail Garcia smacked a triple to right-center on an 0-2 pitch. Skubal didn’t cover first on a squibber to first base on the next hitter, Yuli Gurriel, gifting him an RBI single.
“The inning changes if he’s able to cover first and gets the out,” Hinch said. “All of a sudden it’s a runner on base and two outs. Who knows how it ends, but he created momentum for them and they put some really good swings on him at the end.”
Skubal, who thought first baseman Spencer Torkelson was going to throw home on the play, was unable to recover.
“The 0-2 pitch was executed exactly where I wanted to throw it,” he said. “And he hit it. But on the play at first, you have to know the situation. I thought something different was going on and it wasn’t. You have to cover first. There’s no excuse for that.”
By the end, the Tigers’ four-run third inning was rendered inconsequential, even if it was as many runs as Miami’s lefty starter Jesus Luzardo allowed combined in his previous five starts. Even if Torkelson and Javier Báez both lined RBI singles. Even if Cabrera, who had quite a weekend back in his hometown, rapped a two-run double into the left field corner.
Tough way to end a grueling stretch of 17 games in 17 days.
“The off day would’ve tasted better if we’d won today,” Short said. “But we’ll regroup and get back after it in Pittsburgh Tuesday.”
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