Herrmann's knuckleball to center field eludes Austin Jackson for game-winning hit
DETROIT — Austin Jackson does not dive for balls in Comerica Park’s spacious center field.
Just won’t do it.
Might not have mattered if he tried late in Thursday’s game, anyway.
Chris Herrmann’s sinking line drive appeared to fool Jackson, who couldn’t quite make a lunging shoestring catch in right-center field, allowing the Twins utilityman to get to second base.
“It looked like it was going straight toward Jackson,” Herrmann said. “I guess the wind took it and it ended up falling in the gap. I’m not sure what happened but I’ll take it. I hit it hard and I’m just fortunate it fell and we got the game-winning RBI.”
It plated the tie-breaking run in a 6-6 game, and ended up as the game-winning hit in a 7-6 Tigers loss.
But it wasn’t as straightforward a catch as it might have appeared.
“It just kind of knuckled off the bat. Tough play,” said pitcher Drew Smyly, who gave up the hit, scoring the runner he’d inherited from Bruce Rondon.
“Looked like it just sailed. Looked like a real freaky — when it first went up, I thought it was just an out, but it just shot that way,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It’s definitely (a product of) how it came off the bat, but I don’t know if it hit down toward the end of the bat. I’m not sure.”
But the ball definitely took a funky route, fooling everyone.
“When he hit it, I said, ‘Oh, that’s three outs,’ so I started jogging in and then I saw Jackson going like he was drunk. I already knew what happened. I knew what happened right off the bat,” right fielder Torii Hunter said.
“It was ugly. It was so ugly. That ball was nasty. It wasn’t Jackson’s fault. It was the ball’s fault. It was unbelievable. You can’t explain it. People who were watching, they would never know. They’ll say it was a bad route. Those happen to outfielders all the time. You can’t do anything about it. ...
“It happens at least 10 times a year. It happens a lot and you just don’t know it. You might say, ‘Oh, he had a bad route,’ but actually the ball did something in the air.”
Jackson’s case for not diving is that the ball could roll forever in the cavernous center field of Comerica.
He wasn’t expecting to have to on Herrmann’s liner.
“Not at all. I know he hit it pretty good, so I was going to make the play in the gap. The ball just started taking off towards right field more and just down real hard. I think me and Torii both thought it was a ball that we’d be able to get to. It definitely went through the back through the back of my mind (to dive), but when a ball’s hit like that, you don’t see those too often. I think the last thing you want to do in that situation is try to dive for a ball like that and then it gets past you and it turns into something where, instead of holding him at second, he can possibly get to third or maybe home,” Jackson said.
“It’s a ball that, when it was hit, I thought I was going to be to make a play going in the gap. I started running that way and the ball just started going the other way and down real hard. I tried to make a play on it, but if I try to dive in that situation and the ball gets away, he’ll probably easily get to third right there, possibly get in.
“It’s tough to try to make a play on a ball hit like that. You don’t really get those balls too often, so it’s tough when you get them to get a good read on it.”