The Detroit Tigers found a novel way to blow a game Tuesday night in Minnesota. Nursing a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, Gregory Soto walked Trevor Larnach and Gio Urshela on eight pitches. Soto regained his composure to strike out Max Kepler, then served a sinker to Miguel Sanó, who belted it hard, straight to right fielder Robbie Grossman. This is where things began to break down.
Grossman failed to make the catch, though Larnach had to tag up at third, so Grossman’s strong throw kept him from scoring. Rather than stay at first and load the bases, Sanó kept motoring, pushing Urshela towards third and into a rundown. The Twins were bailed out of this goof when Tigers catcher Eric Haase flung the ball into short left field. Larnach and Urshela scored; the Twins won, 5-4.
“Once in a while you walk away and you just kind of throw your hands in the air, and you smile, and you take the win,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, adding, “We made some boo-boos on the bases, and we somehow made our way out of it and smell like roses.” The video of the play really does shift from boo-boos to roses in an instant.
Even after Grossman’s missed catch, the Tigers had a great chance to nab an out on the basepaths. How could Haase have blown it so bad? An unsatisfying but relevant factor here is the weather. Temperatures reached the mid-30s, which, along with breezy conditions, made pinpoint accuracy difficult to achieve. “Never had a good grip,” Haase said. “Grabbed a big ol’ mud ball and just sailed it. Everyone had a little trouble gripping the ball, especially late in the game. It got even more cold, the wind picked up a little bit, it was just dry. Just tough to handle, I guess.”
Any team can lose on a walk-off error, but it takes a special group to lose on a walk-off error after dropping a lineout and then squandering the chance to capitalize on a baserunning mishap. The Detroit Tigers should be lauded for their contributions to the advancement of the Losing Sciences.