Missed opportunities cost Tigers
Raburn's tough day overshadowed by men left on base
DETROIT -- No, Sunday wasn't a good day for Ryan Raburn. But it wasn't easy being a Tigers player in scoring position, either.
Realistically, though, although Raburn's two 10th-inning errors brought in the go-ahead run in the Tigers' 3-2 loss to the Royals, there's a chance they might not have cost Detroit anything besides more stranded baserunners. As glaring as the three "E5" calls on the day were, Detroit's 0-for-16 line with runners in scoring position and 10 runners left on base also stood out.
Those stranded runners kept the game going into extra innings, from a close call at first on Gerald Laird's fourth-inning bunt attempt that left runners at the corners to runners stranded at third in the seventh and eighth. Once Raburn's two-out overthrow allowed former Tigers player Josh Anderson to score in the 10th, those lost chances loomed almost as big.
Put the plays together, and it was a situation nobody particularly enjoyed in the home clubhouse.
"Raburn's the same guy that made a great play in Boston [on Thursday] and knocked in both runs to win the game," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He's not a third baseman, and we were forced to play him there. He's a good player. I felt bad for him, but that's part of it. That's all part of the game. But I have no problem with him whatsoever.
"That was not, any of that, what cost us the ballgame. What cost us the ballgame was not executing, even though we were trying. Had we done that, we win the game. That other stuff, you'll never hear me say anything about people making errors. That's part of the game. If somebody made an error because they were lazy or didn't care or weren't trying, that's one thing. But we don't have that problem here."
Raburn started at third for the fourth time this year, in place of Brandon Inge, whom Leyland said he "was really trying to stay away from" using Sunday. Had the Tigers taken the lead, Leyland said he probably would've used Inge for an inning. Otherwise, he wanted to pair up Sunday with Monday's off-day to get him extra rest.
"We were trying something with [Inge], some different type of procedure," Leyland said. "Hopefully come Tuesday, he'll be feeling pretty good."
The Tigers had to feel good about their chances, especially when starter Armando Galarraga pitched a little better than expected. He labored through his opening inning in 84-degree heat after being unable to eat solid food earlier in the week due to a throat infection, but he picked up the pace to last five innings with two runs allowed on four hits with six strikeouts.
Magglio Ordonez's 416-foot drive for a second-inning solo homer and Adam Everett's run on a fifth-inning wild pitch ensured Galarraga left a tie game, but Detroit had ample chances to score before and add on later. After Raburn reached on a Kyle Davies error to extend the fourth, Laird tried to lay down a bunt single along the third-base line. Alex Gordon charged and made the throw to first.
"I looked [at the replay]. I was safe," Laird said. "It just frustrates me, because as much as you struggle and struggle, it just seems like stuff builds and builds. I'm going to bust my tail down the line, trying to get an RBI. That run right there could've been the difference."
Raburn could've ended up with the go-ahead hit in the sixth after Carlos Guillen's leadoff double. But Guillen was thrown out trying to steal third base, before Raburn followed with a single through the middle.
A seventh-inning chance with Everett on second and no outs went unfulfilled when Jamey Wright retired the top of the Detroit lineup in order. Miguel Cabrera reached third base with one out, but Ordonez struck out and Raburn flew out to right.
"Obviously, the big one was Jamey getting Ordonez with the infield in," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "You've got a choice there. You can walk him or bring the infield in, and I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
Said Leyland: "We had a lot of situations today where we didn't move runners, but it wasn't because we weren't trying. So I don't have any problem with it. We knew Granderson tried to pull the ball. Magglio tried to shoot one the other way. We just didn't execute."
Meanwhile, Fu-Te Ni, Ryan Perry and Fernando Rodney combined to retire 13 of 14 batters before Anderson outran a slow roller to third for a one-out single in the 10th. David DeJesus followed with a sharp grounder towards the line that Raburn was unable to backhand.
After Willie Bloomquist's comebacker moved up the runners, Rodney (2-3) induced a potential inning-ending grounder to third from Billy Butler. Raburn's high throw took first baseman Carlos Guillen off the bag, rendering Butler safe and allowing Anderson to score.
Add in a third-inning overthrow, and Raburn suffered a three-error game. But that wasn't what ate at Leyland.
"From a manager's standpoint, when you see all those opportunities go by and not getting anything, it's usually not a good feeling in your gut," Leyland said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.