Apr 9, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) celebrates with third baseman Nick Castellanos (9) after scoring a run in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
What’s never fun in a game that begins after 10 PM local time is to have the first two innings to take more than an hour to complete, but that’s what happened on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Josh Beckett needed 26 pitches to get through the first inning. Detroit only collected one hit in the inning — an Ian Kinsler single — but two steals by Kinsler, a walk to Miguel Cabrera, and a sacrifice fly from Victor Martinez pushed across a run to give the Tigers the early 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last long as Anibal Sanchez labored through his own difficult 32-pitch inning in the bottom half of the first. A double by Carl Crawford, a wild pitch, a throwing error by catcher Victor Martinez, and a couple of poor plays (though no errors) by shortstop Alex Gonzalez lead two Dodger runs.
Sanchez would pick himself up in the top half of the second inning when he plated Gonzalez all the way from first base with the rare two-out RBI double by a pitcher. Not to be outdone, Josh Beckett picked up an RBI of his own after successfully laying down a squeeze bunt on a 3-2 count in the bottom half of the second, scoring Juan Uribe from third base.
The Tigers would strike again in the third to take the lead with a nice two-out rally. A two-out single by Victor Martinez followed by a ground-ruled double by Austin Jackson put two aboard for rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos, who picked a good time to slam his first career major league home run.
Detroit would add on a run in the seventh inning: a Jackson sacrifice fly scored Kinsler who had singled, stole a base, and advanced on an error. Kinsler was great on the base paths in this game, taking probably four extra bases with his legs.
Sanchez’s pitching line ended up being a good one after a rough first inning or two. He was limited to only five innings of work due to an early elevated pitch count (109 total pitches), but settled in nicely to finish with six strikeouts against one walk and six hits allowed. Only one of the three runs was charged as an earned run against him.
Drew Smyly came on for his second long relief appearance of the season (the team hasn’t needed a fifth starter yet) and pitched extremely well across three innings. Drew struck out three Dodger hitters, didn’t walk any, allowed just one hit, and didn’t really face anything of a threat. He’ll move into the rotation when needed, but for this night it was nice to have him bridge the gap out of the bullpen.
Joe Nathan — he with the “dead arm” — came in to pitch the ninth inning with a 6-3 lead. He would get through the inning, but not before surrendering the lead. Adrian Gonzalez began with a leadoff home run and then Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp walked a Juan Uribe dropped in a single to load the bases with no one out. Pinch hitter Yasiel Puig struck out, but Scott Van Slyke bounced into an RBI ground out and Dee Gordon laced an RBI single to tie the game. Carl Crawford flew out to end the inning, but Los Angeles had tied the game. It was Nathan’s second blown save in three attempts this season.
Los Angeles brought in their own closer, Kenley Jansen, to pitch the top half of the tenth inning, and he suffered a similar fate to Nathan. Not so much utter disaster and panic, but he did surrender a leadoff home run to Victor Martinez to give the Tigers the lead. Detroit would put two more men aboard — singles both by Jackson and Tyler Collins — but would have to settle for just the one run.
Joba Chamberlain came out of the bullpen in the top of the tenth and induce a weak roller down the third base line off the bat of Hanley Ramirez. Unfortunately it was so weak that Ramirez reached safely before Joba could collect the ball and fire to first base. With two lefties due up — Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier — Brad Ausmus brought in Ian Krol from the bullpen. Krol did the trick, striking out both batters, and Ausmus once again dipped into his pen to bring in Al Alburquerque to face righty Matt Kemp.
Al Al tossed four of his patented sliders and got Kemp to ground out to third base to (finally) secure the victory for the Tigers.
It was obviously nice to get the win, but the game did nothing to alleviate concerns with the bullpen, and particularly now with Joe Nathan. He’s clearly not right and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him land on the DL with some malady or another.