As much as it appeared the Tigers may have turned the corner with a series win at Cincinnati, it looked like their infield defense — so rightfully maligned throughout the first third of the season — may have started to pick it up, too.
The Tigers, who'd turned just 36 double plays in their first 57 games, turned five in the three-game series against the Reds.
Then again, defense let the Tigers down in the crunch in Tuesday's series opener against the Cubs, as two throwing errors by Jhonny Peralta allowed an unearned run to score in the bottom of the eighth, despite no ball leaving the infield. It would be the deciding factor in a 4-3 loss.
Or was it? Replays showed that, while both throws from Peralta were poor, pulling a defender off the bag, they may have actually both been outs.
"I think it’s twice, ‘out,’ and the umpire call safe," Peralta said on the FOX Sports Detroit postgame show. "Everybody can see on the replay, make another mistake."
[At the end of the game, the video for both plays was available on MLB.com's At-Bat Gamecast.
"When you give a team six outs, it's tough to win," teammate Gerald Laird said.
Here's how the inning unfolded:
Phil Coke struck out Steve Clevenger to start his second inning of work, then walked Darwin Barney, before striking out Ian Stewart. Third baseman Miguel Cabrera couldn't do anything with pinch hitter Reed Johnson's swinging dribbler down the third-base line, putting two on with two outs.
That's when it got weird. Cubs leadoff hitter, blazer Tony Campana — who already had three stolen bases in the game — sent a weak grounder toward short. With little to no chance to get Campana at third, Peralta chose to instead try to get Johnson at second base. His lollipop throw to the bag was high, but second baseman Ramon Santiago dragged his toe across the bag, then showed the ball to second base umpire Tony Randazzo, who signaled safe, saying that the throw had pulled his toe up off the base.
"I mean, the first, the guy hit it — Campana — he’s a good runner, so I throw it to second base, and I see Santiago a little bit away from the base. You know, it’s hard to make a good throw to the base," Peralta said. "I look. No matter what, he's out. Everybody see it. They miss them both, both play."
"I was pretty confident that Santiago beat the runner to the bag, that the throw beat the runner to the bag," Coke said in the FSD postgame show. "I guess we could go look at the replay, and see what it says."
The next batter, Starlin Castro, sent another grounder toward short, which Peralta fielded. His throw, up the first-base line, caused first baseman Prince Fielder to fall face-first in the dirt making the stretch. Barney scored on the play, as first-base umpire Larry Vanover ruled that the throw had pulled Fielder off.
“I knew for a fact the guy was out at first base ... There's no way his body came off the bag with the ball not in his glove. There’s no way," Coke said. "I honestly can’t even be mad, because I made my pitches, we made the plays that we needed to make, and we just didn’t get the result we wanted."
The Bleacher Report's Travis Miller (@AtTravisMiller) tweeted
that Coke had the above screen grab for reporters when they got into the locker room, showing Fielder making the stretch with his toe on the bag, before Castro reached it. Others reported that there were two computers set up, side-by-side, showing both calls.
There were some Tigers in the locker room taking the calls philosophically.
"Maybe we just need to put ourselves in better situations, where calls can’t cost us," Laird said on the FSD postgame show.
"It’s just one more thing we’ve gotta overcome," Coke said. "We’ve gotta overcome our own demons on the field — trying to do too much, whatever; not feeling up to par and still going out there and overcoming those types of situations; overcoming calls, no matter what they are — and stepping on the gas pedal and not looking back."
There were others who may have had more of a point to make.
"I mean, I know, obviously, we're not executing the way we should, but you'd just like to see those calls be made," starter Max Scherzer told MLive's Chris Iott. "I know the umpires have a tough job. We're asking them to be perfect. I wish there was a way they could be perfect."
Seems like there is a way to help: Instant replay.
There were some observers who noted that the umpires may have missed a call in the Tigers' favor in the top of the seventh, when Delmon Young appeared to be out on a leadoff double that started the team's comeback — an error that likely would've been overturned on replay, as well.
So be it. Nothing wrong with getting calls right, is there?