Interleague play offers Detroit Tigers fans to see baseball that they normally would not get to see, especially when that play happens in National League parks. The three-game series with the Washington Nationals brought some strange events that show why baseball is such a great game.
The most important event of the series was the fact that the Tigers earned a win against pitcher Joe Ross. Most expected that Ross would dominate the Tigers, especially since he had not allowed a home run all season and he entered the game with a 1.23 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP.
The game against Ross was one of the best baseball games of the season so far. Nick Castellanos hit his second home run of the series. Andrew Romine made a relay play that changed the course of the entire game – saving a run from being scored. The game also gave Michael Fulmer his second win of the season as the young prospect looked strong against the tough NL team. The game came down to the wire as Francisco Rodriguez pitched in the last inning with a minuscule one-run lead. Whether or not he was going to succeed in his outing kept the suspense at an all-time high.
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The first game of the series ended up being more about the Washington Nationals and Bryce Harper rather than about the Tigers. Since Tigers’ fans rarely get to see the 2015 NL MVP, they got to see why he is such a controversial player. He was ejected from the game in the last inning after his constant chirping at the home-plate umpire. Harper never left the dugout and entered the field after the final out, so he actually received a one-game suspension for his actions. The Tigers were in the game until the very last out when Mark Lowe gave up a walk-off home run.
Harper’s behavior overshadowed the fact that Brad Ausmus made a few managing moves that got the “Fire Ausmus” crowd fired-up. One of the bone-headed moves involved Victor Martinez, who was a bench player during the game. In the late innings, Ausmus put Martinez in as a pinch hitter while men were on base. Unfortunately, Ausmus failed to notice that there was an open base, and the Nats walked him – wasting his red-hot bat. He then gave Jarrod Saltalamacchia the opportunity to pinch hit, but in an at-bat much like his pinch-hitting on Sunday, struck out wasting the loaded bases. The other questionable move was putting Lowe in to finish the game – especially after he blew the Sunday game against the Rangers.
The final game also provided some entertaining conversation. The matchup between Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann provided plenty of questions about what pitcher would dominate. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Scherzer did. This was just another opportunity for fans to wonder what would have been if the lights-out right-handed pitcher was still wearing the Old English D. He has only gotten better. Sadly, Scherzer was on fire, striking out all but one of the Tigers batters at least once. He tied the all-time record of 20 strikeouts. If it weren’t for Jose Iglesias and J.D. Martinez hitting unexpected home runs, Scherzer would have one unbelievable shut out.
Scherzer’s performance negated the controversy that had Tigers fans talking Tuesday night into Wednesday afternoon. The rumor on Tuesday was that Ausmus would be sitting Nick Castellanos in the last game of the series. Victor Martinez sat on Monday, Miguel Cabrera sat on Tuesday; so, Wednesday was Castellanos’ day. With the lack of a DH, one of the best hitters had to sit out – simply because there were not enough defensive positions available for them. Martinez ended up playing first base in two games and Cabrera got to play the hot corner in Castellanos’ place. It was too bad that the hottest hitters were unable to get their regular at-bats, because of the NL rules. I, for one, would have preferred to see Justin Upton or Anthony Gose sit out a game – but none of the big hitters can manage the outfield. (Although I have a feeling Castellanos could play left field if needed).
Unfortunately, Ausmus did not put Castellanos in at all to pinch hit, which in my opinion was a big mistake. In a tight situation like the ninth inning of a one-run game with a runner on first, Castellanos could have had a significantly bigger impact than James McCann who has one of the worst batting averages in the league.
After the long streak of losses, the baseball that the Tigers played in Washington was certainly entertaining. They were in every game until the last possible moment. They looked like they really want to win. There was no way that Scherzer was going to let it happen.