Tyler Collins

Tigers fielders confused by fan yelling “I got it”

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I had missed this one at first, but hoo-boy, it’s a good’n.

On Wednesday, two fly balls fell for hits in the first three innings of the Rays’ 8-7 victory over the Tigers at Tropicana Field. They happened as second baseman Ian Kinsler ranged back and center fielder JaCoby Jones and right fielder Tyler Collins ran in to get balls that should’ve been outs. Why weren’t they caught?

Because some dude in the stands was yelling “I GOT IT!” and the players thought it was their teammate doing it. From Mlive:

“Unfortunately, the source of confusion was coming from the stands,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. “Someone in the stands was yelling, ‘I got it!’ That’s why Kinsler went out acting like he had it and then he heard someone say, ‘I got it!’ so he backed off.

“We had to change our signals. It was the Rays’ fans causing confusion.”

Announced attendance was only 12,281 and there were likely far fewer people than that actually on hand. Given the acoustics of Tropicana Field — you can hear stuff from the other side of the park when it’s quiet — a yell from the stands sounded like a yell from a teammate.

We have no idea who the fan was, but we have no idea where Alex Rodriguez was on Wednesday evening, so I have some suspicions.

2017 Preview: Detroit Tigers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Detroit Tigers.

I feel like every year, for the past several years, our Tigers preview has been some variation of “do the Tigers still have a run left in them with the Cabrera-Verlander core?”

If you’re tired of reading that one I have some bad news for you: it’s the same dang story this year as it has been every year. A great pitcher and a great hitter, a very solid supporting cast, a handful of holes that could be critical weaknesses and enough to make them look strong enough to contend but not enough to contend strongly, if that makes any sense.

Let’s start with the pitching. Justin Verlander returned to Cy Young-caliber form in 2016, thanks mostly to health and a big, big leap in his strikeout rate, suggesting that it was health and not an overall decline which harmed him in 2014 and 2015. He’ll lead the way again, followed by Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, who was a wonderful surprise last season. The back end of the rotation is problematic, however, with Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez stinking up the joint for most of last year and young Daniel Norris suffering through injuries. For the Tigers to contend, they’ll need at least one of those veterans to return to their old form — or someone like Matt Boyd or Mike Pelfrey to, well, not be Matt Boyd and Mike Pelfrey– and for Norris to be healthy.

Fine, let’s say Verlander and Fulmer repeat their 2016 success and say that Norris is a strong, healthy and effective number three. Who then does Brad Ausmus turn the ball over to in the late innings? If you think the overall take on the Tigers is rehashed from year to year, well, the same goes for the pen. It, as always, is a liability in Detroit. And it’s not going to be terribly different than it was last year. Francisco Rodriguez will close. A couple of Wilsons in Alex and Justin. Shane Greene. Maybe one of the veteran starters who doesn’t make the rotation. The always interesting Bruce Rondon. It’s not terrible but it’s not the strongest bunch in the world and it’s being handled by a guy in Ausmus who has yet to show that he can get the most out of a less-than-steller relief corps. You can Google the phrase “Tigers bullpen woes” and find results from every season for most of the past decade. You’ll probably be able to do it again this year.

The offense, of course, is fantastic, at least at the top end. Miguel Cabrera is still an MVP-caliber player and even when his decline begins he’ll be better than almost any hitter in the game. Ian Kinsler is still low-key excellent. Nick Castellanos took a big leap forward last year. J.D. Martinez is going to miss the first month or so of the season with a sprained ligament in his foot, but he’s in his walk year and will likely be fine once he returns. Justin Upton has always been super uneven and has always failed to meet the insane expectations he set early in his career, but as he showed late last season, he’s capable of carrying a team for a stretch. I’ve been saying it for a pushing a decade, but one of these years he’s going to put it all together.

The big question is going to be the bottom third of the lineup where catcher James McCann, shortstop Jose Iglesias and center fielder Tyler Collins all look to be offensive liabilities at the moment. A bigger than usual year from any of them could help matters greatly.

Of course all of this — the strong lineup with critical holes, the rotation that starts well but has question marks and the spotty bullpen — has been the Tigers story for years. It’s a story that could end happily with 85-90 wins, a playoff spot and a bunch of seasoned veterans getting hot at the right time and riding it to glory. It could just as easily get sprinkled with a slow start or a few injuries and result in a 75-80 win season like they had back in 2015.

In the past, that would lead to yet another “wait until next year.” This year, however, you get the strong sense that there is no next year if this year is disappointing. There was talk that the Tigers could sell off veteran parts this past winter, but they didn’t. Then longtime owner Mike Ilitch, who was seen as a man who pushed to win now despite the costs, passed away in February. It’s not hard to imagine his son giving different instructions to GM Al Avila if the Tigers don’t get off to a fast start this year. It’s not hard to imagine the great unwinding of the core that has kept this Tigers team in contention for so long if 2017 is a disappointment.

I’m still optimistic, though. The Indians are the class of the division but the Royals are likely taking a step back and the Twins and White Sox are not yet a threat. I won’t predict October glory for them, but I think, barring major injuries to key players, the Tigers will be playing meaningful baseball in September.

Prediction: Second place, American League Central

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 3, White Sox 2: A pinch-hit walkoff sac fly from Tyler Collins completes the Tigers’ sweep of the Chisox. JaCoby Jones was key once again, doubling twice, with the second one helping put him in position to score the winning run. Justin Verlander and Chris Sale each allowed two runs in seven and eight innings, respectively, but neither figured in the decision.

Red Sox 8, Rays 6: Down 4-1 in the fifth, Hanley Ramirez hit a grand slam. They got an insurance run with a Jackie Bradley Jr. homer but the pen, for the second game in a row, coughed up the lead late. Boston rallied, however, with two in the bottom half of the inning. That bullpen is gonna be a source of worry down the stretch. Kevin Kiermaier had three hits for the Rays, which is one less cat than I now have. Yes, I got a fourth cat. It’s my fiancee’s cat, who comes with the deal of cohabitation. Kevin, please give a warm welcome to Fran. Hit a home run for her or something. Act like you care for once.

Rangers 14, Mariners 1: A day after his walkoff homer, Rougned Odor homers twice. Carlos Gomez hit a grand slam, which I’m sure makes Astros fans super happy. All in all, though, this one was a laugher. A laugher for the Rangers anyway. The Mariners and their fans are probably pretty sad about it. Including Mariners fan Ashley Varela who, if you missed the news yesterday, is HardballTalk’s new weekend writer.

Astros 4, Athletics 3: Houston was down 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth with a runner on third. There were two outs. Liam Hendicks then struck out Alex Bregman, so on to the ninth–no! Not on to the ninth. Strike three was a wild pitch which allowed Bregman to make it to first and allowed the runner to score. With a new lease on life, Jose Altuve tripled home Bregman to tie it and then Evan Gattis singled home Altuve. There are a lot of ways to lose a game and no loss is super fun to experience, but this one has to be pretty close to the worst.

Rockies 7, Dodgers 0; Dodgers 10, Rockies 8: Ah, the split double header. Over six hours of baseball plus the time in between the two games and you’re right back where you started when the day began. Well, I suppose the Dodgers are a half game worse off than where they began given that the Giants won, but you know what I mean. Could’ve been way worse for L.A., though. After getting spanked in Game 1, they were down 8-2 in the eighth inning of the nightcap before plating three in the eighth and then, down by two, getting a grand slam with two out in the ninth from Andrew Toles to complete the dramatic come-from-behind win. Toles, by the way, is hitting .579 with three homers in his last 10 games.

Giants 4, Diamondbacks 2: Shelby Miller came back from the minors and did not embarrass himself — he allowed two runs in six innings — but he got the loss all the same thanks to his dudes only scratching out one run while he was the pitcher of record. Buster Posey doubled in a run and sac-flied in another.

Blue Jays 5, Orioles 3: Aaron Sanchez spent ten days in Dunedin — which would be a great name for a coming of age movie, by the way — to limit his innings. He came back fresh to win his 13th game after allowing one run — unearned — in six innings. Toronto took two of the three games from the O’s, who are fading from view in the AL East race and now find themselves tied for the final wild card spot with the Tigers.

Angels 3, Reds 0: Ricky Nolasco tosses a Maddux, shutting out the Reds on a mere 94 pitches in a game that lasted a mere two hours and ten minutes, making it even more Madduxian than most of these affairs. The Reds only used three pitchers themselves. The Reds must’ve been eager to get that flight back to Ohio. Who isn’t eager to get back to Ohio? Chrissie Hynde maybe, but that’s it.

Nationals 2, Phillies 1: The same number of total runs were scored in this game that were scored in the Angels-Reds game. It just took five more pitchers and 40 more minutes to get there. Jayson Werth homered in the first, Freddy Galvis hit a solo shot to tie it in the fifth and Wilson Ramos singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh.

Indians 8, Twins 4: Corey Kluber gets his seventh straight win, striking out 11. The Twins have lost 13 in a row. It’s the longest losing streak for any team in the bigs this year. It’s the second longest in Twins history, one short of their 14-game skid in 1982.

Braves 8, Padres 1: With this win and the Twins loss, the Braves no longer have the worst record in all of baseball! Yay! Matt Wisler struck out ten in six innings, helping Atlanta, for the time being anyway, out of the first pick in the 2017 draft. Wait. Oh, crap. That was the only thing my guys were playing for. They even fail at failing.

Mets 5, Marlins 2: The Mets keep on winning. Kelly Johnson hit a three-run double in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie and to give New York their ninth win in 11 games. Bad news, though, as it looks like second baseman Neil Walker is going to have season-ending back surgery.

Cubs 6, Pirates 5: The Cubs sweep the Pirates. Kris Bryant hit a homer and made a couple of sweet defensive plays. Not as sweet as Addison Russell‘s play, though:

The bases were loaded there too, so that catch put an end to a threat which could’ve altered the course of the game. Everything is coming up Cubbies this year.

Brewers 3, Cardinals 1: Matt Garza allowed one run over seven innings, outdueling Luke Weaver, who struck out ten in six. Kirk Nieuwenhuis‘ three-run homer in the third was all Milwaukee needed.

Yankees 5, Royals 4: New York was down 4-0 heading into the sixth but rallied in that inning and the next with a Starlin Castro two-run homer and a couple of sac flies. It stayed tied at four until the 13th inning when another sac fly — this one from Brian McCann — gave the Yankees the lead and, eventually, the victory. New York is only 2.5 out of the Wild Card. The only real downside to this surprising surge is that, if they complete it and make the playoffs, everyone’s gonna write “getting rid of A-Rod was what the Yankees needed to win!” columns. They probably already have them drafted. And none of them probably mention that the Yankees won the wild card last year with A-Rod on the team.