This time, though, their offense couldn't provide enough of a buffer and the bullpen, led by the efforts of the suddenly shaky Joe Nathan, blew up, allowing the Oakland Athletics to walk off with a 3-1 win.
Sanchez pitched an absolute gem. Throughout the first four innings, he didn't allow an Oakland player to reach base. The same inning, Torii Hunter found him run support with a home run, making it 1-0 Detroit.
That score kept hold. Sanchez easily motored through the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, while the Tigers' offense didn't put up much of a fight against Scott Kazmir, who was pitching his own gem. As usual, the game would be a battle of who would blink first.
Sanchez started the ninth inning, inducing a groundout but giving up a double to Coco Crisp. He was then lifted for Nathan, who allowed a controversial hit to John Jaso that probably should have been stabbed by Nick Castellanos at third. The next batter, Josh Donaldson, made everyone pay, unloading Nathan's pitch into the seats for the 3-1 win.
Top Tiger: Anibal Sanchez. There's no doubt that Sanchez has been the most consistent Tigers' starting pitcher lately. That's his second straight solid outing, and he deserved a much better fate than an no-decision, considering he gave the bullpen a rest and racked up nine strikeouts.
Bungling Bengal: Joe Nathan. Whether or not Nathan should have started the ninth or been the recipient of a great play by Castellanos at third to bail him out of the jam, it's the closer's job to get whatever out the manager wants, especially when that closer is making $10 million dollars a year. For two appearances in a row mixed around a save, Nathan has been unable to answer the bell, and has contributed two losses for Detroit. At times, he looks unhittable, while others, he looks all too mortal. That's not enough for a big money closer the Tigers are depending on.
The Turning Point: Coco Crisp's ninth inning double. Prior to that point, most (including manager Brad Ausmus) likely felt that Sanchez could go the distance considering the Athletics hadn't touched him most of the night. The double, however, provided the jump-start to Oakland's eventual big inning
Stat Of The Game: 6, the number of hits the Tigers had, when compared to Oakland's measly five. Sometimes, all it takes is one big hit to win a game, and the Tigers, despite collecting one more hit than the Athletics, didn't find enough offense to get the job done. Two more runs would have allowed the pitchers to operate confidently at the very least in the later innings, and probably helped Detroit escape with a win.
Quote To Note: "Jaso was the out that we thought we had, but unfortunately, it didn't happen." —Joe Nathan. Was Nathan calling out rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos with this particular barb, or just explaining what happened at the end of the game? That quote can be read in a multitude of different ways, but the bottom line is, both Nathan and Castellanos didn't get the job done. It's always a team effort to implode in the ninth inning, and that was no exception here.
What's Next: The Tigers try to salvage the series Thursday afternoon, as Rick Porcello (7-2) looks to rebound against Jesse Chavez (4-2). The game begins at 3:35 p.m. EST.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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