DETROIT -- Jim Leyland might not have believed it himself had he not seen Brayan Villarreal with the ball in his glove and his foot on home plate as Justin Morneau slid home safely in the sixth inning of the Tigers' 10-4 loss to the Twins in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday.
He wasn't angry, he emphasized, but reserved the right to be a little incredulous.
It happened after Villarreal struck out Eduardo Escobar with the bases loaded for the first out of the sixth inning. Escobar swung and missed at a slider in the dirt, but the ball rolled away from catcher Gerald Laird and headed toward the Twins' on-deck circle.
Laird pounced on the ball as Villarreal bolted toward the plate. They did their jobs quickly enough that they had plenty of time to retire Morneau as he broke from third base.
Villarreal took Laird's throw before Morneau even began his slide. It looked fine until Villarreal got the rules mixed up.
"I felt bad for the kid," Leyland said. "When he saw the guy run, he thought that became a [forceout], when actually the guy [at the plate] can't run [on a dropped third strike] when first base is occupied with less than two outs. He just made a mental mistake."
Thus, while Villarreal stood on the plate with the ball in his glove, Morneau slid in. Home-plate umpire Tom Hallion paused for a second to make sure Morneau touched the plate, then called him safe to Villarreal's surprise.
Scherzer's velocity still down, but not a concern
DETROIT -- The Tigers were wrapping up the front end of their doubleheader against the Twins around the time the White Sox were starting their game against the Angels. The scoreboard watching, however, had started from the outset at Comerica Park. It's just that all the eyes were tuned into the velocity readings under the scores.
The results for Max Scherzer weren't as good as normal, but weren't quite as bad as Tuesday, when shoulder fatigue forced him out after two innings.
Scherzer threw a bevy of fastballs in the early innings, most of them in the 91-92-mph range, as he tried to get a feel for the pitch. From the second inning on, he was throwing 92-93 mph, topping out at 94 mph once.
Compared with his average velocity of just over 95 mph, it's a drop. To hear Scherzer explain it, though, it was an expected one.
"My arm felt good. I didn't feel any fatigue or anything like that," Scherzer said. "I wasn't in my normal routine this past week of throwing how I throw, and really how I run and lift, too, so I think that's why I didn't quite have the zip on my fastball today. Given that, I realized I didn't have the zip and I was able to pitch today."
With a normal between-starts routine this coming week, Scherzer said he expects to have that velocity back for his next start Friday in Minnesota.
"When Max usually has to crank it up, he can crank it up," manager Jim Leyland said. "And obviously, he wasn't trying to do that today. And he pitched fine. He pitched well enough to win, don't get me wrong. But hopefully, by the next start, he'll build back up to where he'll be able to do that."
Leyland says odd interference play was a first
DETROIT -- Add together Jim Leyland's playing career as a Minor Leaguer and his managerial coaching tenures, and he has been in professional baseball for nearly half a century. On Saturday, Alexi Casilla being called out for interfering with Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta's attempt at a catch while still standing on second base was a first.
"I've never seen that happen in the history of my years in professional baseball. Ever," Leyland said on Sunday before the opener of a doubleheader against the Twins. "That's why I enjoy this game. You see something that you've never seen before, and I've never seen that in the history of my career."
Nor, for that matter, had Peralta, the shortstop Casilla was ruled to have interfered with when they collided on Denard Span's popup just behind the bag.
"He's on the base," Peralta said. "He didn't see me. That's the first time that I see that play, but it worked out for me."
The interference comes from MLB Rule 7.08(b), but it's a judgment call: "A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not. If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he should not be called out, unless such hindrance, in the umpire's judgement ... is intentional."
Casilla told reporters after Saturday's 8-0 Tigers win that he had no intent to hinder. The decision apparently came from the fact that Casilla made no attempt to get out of the way, despite the fact that he was on the bag.
"I just went back to the bag and stayed on the bag. I didn't see him coming toward me because my face was looking straight to center field," he said. "I just felt him hit me and I tried to stay on the bag, but [second-base umpire Brian O'Nora] called me out right away."
Leyland said later Sunday that he talked with the crew, and was told that Saturday's ruling was not the right call in that situation.