Tigers Daily-ish: McCann’s Walk-off Covers Up Price Absence

by Jon Erkkila | Posted on Monday, June 29th, 2015
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James Mccann

The Detroit Tigers continued their season of mediocrity on Sunday with a sudden flash of brilliance just when things were looking about as morose as possible. A bizarre situation on the mound involving the disappearance of their star pitcher only heightened the tension of a game that was seemingly circling the drain. The Tigers looked stumbling, undisciplined and unfocused…until they didn’t.

Chicago White Sox hurler Jeff Samardzija was overpowering the Tigers through seven innings at Comerica Park. Samardzija had allowed only two hits and two walks as the Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead after six innings. “The Shark” had his fastball working with excellent command and just enough hard sliders mixed in to keep Tigers batters off-balance.

In addition to the bats being quiet for the Tigers, the crowd seemed bored and the pitching staff was absent. “Absent” only in that there was no pitcher on the mound to start the 7th inning for Detroit. David Price had retired to the clubhouse unbeknownst to practically anyone, evidently. Confusion reigned as Justin Verlander leapt into action trying to find Price and get him to the mound. Verlander found Price in the clubhouse already out of uniform. He had already supposedly started doing arm exercises that he likely does immediately after most starts. Manager Brad Ausmus looked flummoxed by the whole situation. A “miscommunication” of Price’s status to remain in the game was later blamed…whatever that truly means.

Luckily for the Tigers reliever Alex Wilson had been warming up the inning prior as Price worked through a 2-run inning. It didn’t take Wilson long to get hot again on the mound and he pitched a solid outing getting five outs for Ausmus before turning it over to Tom Gorzelanny to get the last out of the 8th. Wilson probably goes under the radar for the Tigers as a “hero” of the afternoon, but his turn on the mound kept the Tigers in range and he did it with little notice.

The game took a dramatic turn in the 8th. Suddenly the Tigers had Samardzija’s number after seven innings of ineptitude. Detroit would put five of the first six batters on base to start the inning plating 4 runs to tie the game. The decisive blow to drive Samardzija from the game was a first-pitch ringing double into the gap by the venerable Victor Martinez to drive in the three runs to tie it. Martinez had looked pretty poor in his first three at-bats so it was no shock that Samardzija challenged him with the first pitch. Martinez attacked it however and barreled a drive into the Comerica “Triples Alley” (which, of course, only meant a double for VMart!).

Joakim Soria would pitch a perfect frame in the top of the 9th. What happened next was a dramatic one-out, 0-2 count, walk-off homer for Tigers rookie catcher James McCann off of Sox reliever Zach Putnam. It was McCann’s second walk-off homer at Comerica Park this season, both coming on 0-2 counts. The young catcher had two hits on the day, his first started the four-run uprising in the 8th. It was positive sign for a player whose production has been waning for weeks after a solid start to his rookie campaign.

Improbably a lost Sunday afternoon where the club was looking about as feeble as it had all season was a rousing crowd-pleaser. The late fireworks were a bit of rarity for the Tigers as they entered the game 0-30 when trailing after the 7th inning.

It’s a different Tigers club than we’ve seen over the last few years. They can look rather disorganized and only marginally interested for long stretches but then the inherent talent does take over at times for encouraging wins. This kind of up-and-down play shows up when you note they are three games over .500 but have actually allowed more runs than they’ve scored on the season.

In a 162-game marathon one win in late June isn’t the biggest deal ever and neither is an individual loss. But losing a series to the moribund White Sox at home capped off by being dominated by Samardzija would have left a mark on the club. It would have been another mile-marker on the road to Palookaville. Instead they rallied to get a needed “W” and live to fight another day perhaps with a bounce in their collective steps.

Price check in Aisle 4

Anyone trying to analyze what really happened during the David Price confusion needs to step back and not immediately buy in to snap judgments. We don’t know what really happened and we may never know.

Did one party hear the other wrong? Was Price given bad information by someone? Was their no conversation and Price just assumed he was out? Did Price just decide he was done and not inform Ausmus?

Some of the “worry” over this situation will get lost in the glow a great comeback victory. Winning cures many ills. But the questions above can only lead to even more.

The whole situation just has an “Amateur Hour” feel to it. It’s simply unacceptable. How does a “miscommunication” like that even occur? It would seem fairly cut and dried. Would there be any way for Price to get bad information from pitching coach Jeff Jones or Ausmus? The reaction of the Tigers coaching staff looked very stunned by it all. Price took blame for it later, but the whole situation doesn’t shine a very kind light on Ausmus for running a tight ship. How can a manager have a star pitcher not know his status? How bad does it look to have a guy like Verlander running around to figure it all out?

Did Price pack it in on his club and manager? It would seem odd. He has no record of behavior in this manner. However he was only sitting at 99 pitches through six innings. That’s not a particularly big number for him. It would seem odd for him to assume he was out after the sixth despite the four run deficit. This is a guy we’ve been told ad nauseum prides himself on working deep into games. If he wasn’t told he was coming out, why would he head for the clubhouse?

It could also by “much ado about nothing”. An honest mistake that is just highly unusual. Is that the simple answer? Very possible.

It’s just fishy. Hopefully more will come out in due course, but one suspects that any dirty laundry will get put through a sanitizing rinse cycle before the next press availability on Monday.

Miscellaneous Fulminations

  • The Tigers now possess a 26-14 record against the AL Central. They’ve won 11 of 13 series to get there against division foes. This intra-division dominance is obviously what’s keeping the Tigers within striking distance in the division race.
  • Yoenis Cespedes is never boring. He can be scintillating to watch. But his bouts of disinterest to seem to rise up on occasion. Cespedes took a rather obvious saunter to a seeming double by Jose Abreu in the 4th inning on Sunday with nobody out. Only Cespedes tripped on his own feet, fell on his butt, and allowed Abreu to reach third easily. An Avisail Garcia sac-fly would plate him. Cespedes is a major talent and a big part of the Tigers hopes moving forward. His focus wanes at times. Does the production make up for it in the end?
  • The Tigers probably view Sunday’s win as an even bigger positive in that Miguel Cabrera was fairly quiet throughout and they still managed a win when some others chipped in. Martinez with the big double followed a rather easy strikeout of Cabrera. Any re-emergence by “VMart” would be the most welcome sight in Detroit since Henry Ford’s “5 Dollars a Day” promise to his workers once upon a time.
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Jon Erkkila
About the Author

Jon Erkkila is a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. Currently living in MLB Blackout Hell, otherwise known as Iowa. Follow him on twitter @yooper_ia

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