Detroit Tigers: Questionable decisions do not help a shaky bullpen
By Tyler Kotila
Detroit Tigers extra-innings loss plagued by bad decisions.
The Detroit Tigers did a good job staying in Wednesday's game. Kevin Gausman's stuff was nasty against the Tigers' abysmal offense. His splitter was carving through the strike zone, and the Tigers bats struggled.
They were able to muster up some offense, and a good start from Eduardo Rodríguez wound up squandered by the end of things. The Tigers hitters who went deep (Nick Maton and Kerry Carpenter) both were not able to be fooled by sequencing, jumping on fastballs at the top of the zone, and belting them.
The Tigers were ahead, going into the bottom of the ninth inning. The Tigers' bullpen door opened, and none other than Trey Wingenter came on to do the pitching. He would fail to record an out and allow the Blue Jays to come storming back and tie things up.
The beginning of the end started with a single from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who singled pull-side into left. A four-pitch walk was issued to Matt Chapman, and as the broadcast pointed out, it was better than another extra-base hit as Chapman has seen the ball exceptionally well as of late.
Wingenter then hit Daulton Varsho to load the bases. That was when A.J. Hinch went out and got him. He called upon left-hander Chasen Shreve to come on with bases loaded and nobody out. He got three outs, but not before two sacrifice flies allowed the Blue Jays to tie the ballgame at three.
Shreve went back out in the tenth to pitch to Kevin Kiermaier, who bunted and moved up the runner who starts on second to third. The day was done for Shreve, and Jose Cisnero came in, giving up the single back up the middle by George Springer that walked things off.
It was a truly tough watch for many Tigers fans. The Tigers got a good outing from Rodríguez, who pitched around trouble quite well, and the team was able to jump on a couple of pitches from Gausman, who was very much so "on" today with great stuff. It's a game you have to come away with a win in.
Instead, playing match-ups leaves the Tigers with a walk-off loss in extras. A.J. Hinch made a couple of questionable decisions that did not help the bullpen out whatsoever. I've pointed the finger at Hinch for continuing to call on Jason Foley, but today he was solid in his relief outing.
Hinch's decisions did not help the Detroit Tigers bullpen at all.
I take issue with the decision to "play match-ups" with Alex Lange in the eighth inning. Sure, Lange got the job done and executed what he was supposed to, but there was no reason to burn your best bullpen arm when you needed him in the ninth.
A couple of Hinch's decisions from the eighth inning onward seemed odd. This is not a "Fire AJ Hinch" piece by any means, but some questionable bullpen decisions made it tough to win this game, for sure. That is, on top of a lack of execution from the bullpen arms called upon after Lange in the eighth.
There is no one else in the bullpen to trust the ninth inning too. Although Lange had to face Springer and Bo Bichette, which could have ended a lot worse with someone else on the mound, this is not a bullpen where you can play match-ups and burn the best arm you have in the eighth in a one-run game.
Frankly, I would have instead Lange been warming during the eighth, to be called upon at the first sign of trouble, than on to pitch in the eighth. Give me Lange against Guerrero Jr., Chapman, and Varsho all day.
That's just my armchair manager speaking, but it's tough to see Hinch go to Lange in the eighth playing match-ups when there's no one else you can really give the ball to for the ninth and feel any sort of confidence in.
The bullpen has regressed to levels the fans have not seen after last year; the bullpen was more than serviceable. But a couple of trades later and no key free agents added, the bullpen is beyond thin.