Controversial error sparks Tigers to win over Red Sox
By RICHARD L. SHOOK The Sports Xchange
Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (2) steals second base ahead of the tag by Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta (27) in the eighth inning at Comerica Park. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
DETROIT — Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell thinks you can add one more to the plethora of umpiring fiascoes that have been seen in the Major Leagues this season.
A controversial two-base error call on a ball hit by the Detroit leadoff batter Sunday set up a three-run eighth inning that helped the Tigers to a 7-5 victory over the Red Sox.
The Tigers won three of the four games of the weekend series.
Torii Hunter's sacrifice fly brought in the run, breaking a 4-4 tie, and Prince Fielder followed with a two-run single to let Detroit withstand a two-out RBI double by Boston's Jonny Gomes in the ninth.
Avisail Garcia opened the eighth with a deep fly near the right field wall. Daniel Nava, who had replaced Shane Victorino when Victorino had to leave with a back problem, made a routine basket catch but then dropped the ball when he was flipping it from his glove into his hand.
Instead of an out, the play was ruled a two-base error, setting off a dispute that ended with Farrell being tossed from the game.
"When you spend the rest of the game in the clubhouse, you clearly have a difference of opinion," Farrell said. "What was kind of surprising to me was that the three other umpires didn't see it either."
Farrell felt it was the first base umpire's call, while crew chief Ted Barrett, the third base umpire, said it was under the jurisdiction of second base umpire Mike DiMuro.
"To have a catch," Barrett said, "you have to have complete control and voluntary release. Mike (DiMuro) had him with control, but did not have the voluntary release. When he flipped the ball out of his glove, he never got it into his hand. That's not voluntary release."
Barrett said he, too, saw replays and noted, "He never got the ball into his hand; therefore, there was no voluntary release and no catch."
"We made a number of miscues that led to four unearned runs," Farrell said. "That (call) certainly changed the complexion of the eighth inning. I don't know if it changed the outcome of the game."
Reliever Andrew Miller (0-2) compounded the error with one of his own. Rookie Bryan Holaday laid down a sacrifice bunt to the third base side of the mound and Miller's throw drew Mike Napoli off first base for an error that left runners at first and third.
Austin Jackson walked and then Hunter drove a 1-2 pitch from reliever Alex Wilson into right-center for a sacrifice fly. Miguel Cabrera was walked intentionally and Fielder greeted lefty Craig Breslow with a line two-run single to center. All three runs were unearned.
Jackson had three walks and two hits, scoring three runs in the game.
Joaquin Benoit, Detroit's new closer, came on for the final out of the top of the eighth and picked up the victory, although he gave up the RBI double to Gomes. Benoit is now 2-0.
"I was not good, but we won," said Tigers' starter Justin Verlander, who gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings. "I haven't been pitching very good as of late. Thankfully our team picked me up."
The Tigers tied the score, 4-4, in the seventh when Miller hit Jhonny Peralta with an 0-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two out.
The shift of Andrew Bailey out of the closer's role by the Red Sox did not get off to a promising beginning. He came in for the seventh and gave up hits to two of the three batters he faced. A defensive blunder cost him, though.
Hunter hit a liner to second with Jackson on first, but Dustin Pedroia dropped the ball. It could still have been turned into a double play but the throw went to Napoli, whose foot was on the bag, negating the double play. Jackson was standing on the bag, so getting the first out on Hunter eliminated the possibility of a force.
"That's one of the things we went over in Spring Training this year," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but we were teaching our runners to stay on the base in that situation."
Boston broke a 3-3 tie in the fourth when Ryan Lavarnway walked and went to third on Jacoby Ellsbury's long double to right-center. Victorino brought Lavarnway in with a high hopper to short. Boston had tied the score in the third off Verlander, who had problems controlling his fastball, when Napoli got the run home on a forceout.
Detroit took a 3-2 lead in the second on a passed ball by Lavarnway with runners on second and third and two out.
The Red Sox jumped on Verlander for two runs in the second. Lavarnway grounded an RBI single up the middle and Ellsbury hit a sacrifice fly to center to create the 2-2 tie.
"I didn't have good command of my fastball or my offspeed stuff," Verlander said.
Red Sox starter Felix Doubront had control problems, too, but the Tigers' patience came and went. Cabrera unloaded a ground rule RBI double to straightaway center, and the second run scored on Fielder's groundout to first.
Notes: Detroit RHP Max Scherzer now holds the club record with 11 straight winning decisions from the start of a season. RHP George Mullin was 11-0 in 1909 but one of those victories came in a relief role. Scherzer is currently on a schedule that would allow him to pitch an inning in the All-Star Game next month, with his last start prior to the game coming on Saturday. ... Boston LHP Franklin Morales experienced some soreness in his left chest area at the back end of his 2 1/3-inning outing at Detroit on Saturday night. "He didn't feel any drastic improvement," Farrell said Sunday, indicating a DL stint is possible. "We'll have him looked at Monday and make a roster decision at that time." Morales felt the soreness on his next-to-last pitch, a fastball, then broke off a bad curve that 2B Omar Infante hit for a two-run home run. ... RHP Rick Porcello of the Tigers has a 4.74 ERA that is bloated by two bad frames. He gave up six in one inning of his last start and nine in two-thirds of an inning April 20 at Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels, his next opponent (Tuesday). ... Red Sox RHP Allen Webster remains in the Boston rotation "as of today," Farrell said. "I thought his three-pitch mix was better than his previous starts and his secondary pitches were much better. It may take some time (for Webster to develop)." Webster likely would be returned to Triple-A if RHP Clay Buchholz were ready to return, which he is not. ... Martinez, playing first to give Fielder a game off his feet, made a spectacular play on Ellsbury with one out in the sixth. Martinez dove to get Ellsbury's sharp grounder, which squirted out of his glove into foul territory. Martinez dove to the ground, grabbed the ball and flipped it blindly backwards to pitcher Drew Smyly covering for the out. "I was yelling, 'I'm here, I'm here,'" Smyly said. "It was all him. It was fun, a great play." "When I went to get the ball," Martinez said, "I knew where the base was. I just threw it to the base."