Tigers bullpen falters in eighth
Disputed homer probably not a deciding factor for Halos
ANAHEIM -- The Angels have had their Rally Monkey campaign going for about six years now. The video of a monkey in an Angels uniform jumping up and down is basically an afterthought every time the Angels are trailing going into the late innings, though the video came out in the sixth on Saturday.
The Rally Monkey is expected. The rally glove was a surprise.
By the time the Angels were finished with their seven-run eighth inning, the young fan in right field and his outstretched glove didn't loom as large in the 10-3 Tigers loss. As center fielder Curtis Granderson reasoned, it would've at least been a double, scoring the go-ahead run and putting runners at second and third with one out. The way the bottom of the Angels' order hit following the homer, the lead likely would've been more than a run.
"Regardless, something good for them was going to happen out of it," Granderson said.
Still, with five losses in the Tigers' last six games, the homer was arguably a symbol of the way their fortunes are going lately. The actual worry for manager Jim Leyland was what happened before and after.
Something bad seems to be happening each game, whether it's starting pitchers not working deep into games or the offense not adding on runs. On Saturday, it was a combination, and it was enough for the Angels to win a game in which All-Star slugger Vladimir Guerrero didn't hit a ball out of the infield.
"We're in a rut right now," Leyland said.
While the Tigers are in a rut, the controversial home run was apparently over a ledge.
The decisive rally started when Guerrero hit a leadoff ground ball that took Brandon Inge deep into the hole, giving him no chance for a strong throw across the infield. After Casey Kotchman sacrificed Guerrero into scoring position, Gary Matthews Jr. was intentionally walked for lefty Tim Byrdak to face left-handed-hitting Garret Anderson.
Anderson lofted a 1-0 pitch deep to right field, as Magglio Ordonez retreated to the fence for a possible carom. As the ball fell, a young fan in the outfield caught the ball. Replays seemed to show his glove reaching over the fence.
"I saw the glove," Ordonez said of his view up, "but I don't know if he reached [for] it."
Ordonez, second baseman Placido Polanco and first baseman Sean Casey immediately argued with first-base umpire Ed Montague, who made the call, and Leyland trotted out to ask the umpiring crew to confer.
The explanation Montague gave, according to Granderson and Casey, was that the top of the fence, which includes the out-of-town scoreboard, isn't even with the rest of it.
"The ump said there's a ledge there," Granderson said. "He said the kid reached out, not down."
The Tigers' chances went down after that, from a Mike Rabelo error on a play at the plate to Chone Figgins' RBI bloop single to Orlando Cabrera's two-run homer off Jose Capellan's first pitch.
By the time it was over, the seven-run eighth tied the biggest inning the Tigers have surrendered this year, matching a seven-run eighth by the Blue Jays in the season-opening series at Comerica Park. For Leyland, however, the roots of the defeat also came earlier.
When Detroit's bullpen had its struggles earlier this season, Leyland made a point that his starting pitchers had to work deeper into games. On Saturday, he took out rookie starter Andrew Miller one batter into the sixth inning with 100 pitches thrown. Guerrero's rally-starting single, in turn, came off Jason Grilli (5-3) in his third inning of work.
"Above and beyond that, he gave us every chance to win the game," Leyland said of Miller, who left with a 3-1 lead that was tied by inning's end. "But you can't go to 100 pitches [that soon]."
Part of the credit goes to Angels hitters such as Guerrero, who worked a 10-pitch walk in the fourth inning and had a 3-1 count before hitting into an inning-ending double play in the first. He also forced Grilli to use 11 pitches to retire him in the sixth. As Miller said, he tried to throw "the kitchen sink" to him.
"He really is amazing," Inge said of Guerrero. "He takes the biggest swing ever, and you think there's no way he can make contact on every pitch."
For Miller, however, his pitch count really elevated in a fifth-inning rally that put the Angels on the scoreboard, including a nine-pitch strikeout of Matthews. Miller wasn't nearly as wild as his last outing at Chicago, where his last two pitches went to the backstop, but he didn't try to crank up his fastball nearly as often. On the other hand, he kept the ball down more and mixed in a good share of curveballs.
"I'm giving the best guys my best stuff," Miller said, "but I have to do that to everybody, not get too cute and get one on the inside corner."
Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez had a long conversation with Miller after the game.
"Giving up one run in the first five innings, that's giving your team a chance to win," Miller said. "But only going five innings, that's not giving your team a chance to win."
Meanwhile, the offense struggled to add on runs, leaving two runners on in the opening inning and stranding Carlos Guillen after he stole second and third in the sixth.
"We're having good at-bats. We're getting hits," Leyland said. "We're just not getting them at the right time."
They had a chance to win. But the Angels had a chance for the Rally Monkey, and the rally glove. Home run or double, it might not have mattered.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.