Blunders by Boesch and Avila cost Tigers Critical Game


I don’t like to criticize too often.  I love the Tigers players and I try to keep a good perspective on how hard they work for the fans.  We can’t expect perfection and have to take the good with the bad.  Today, however, I can’t be quite so nice.  A couple of plays involving Alex Avila and Brennan Boesch occurred during the Tigers 3-2 loss to the Indians on Monday afternoon that will have me tossing and turning all night.  These unfortunate plays directly cost the Tigers a win.

Lets start with Avila, who should shoulder a little less of the blame than Boesch.  I don’t like being hard on Avila because of the herculean effort he put in last year and how clearly worn down he is this year.  In Monday’s game, however, Avila should have caught a high pitch from Anibal Sanchez, but instead it popped out of his glove and rolled away behind him.  He had a good chance at getting Jason Kipnis out at home if he had picked up the ball and thrown a strike to Sanchez covering the plate, but he bobbled the ball and never got the throw off.

Later in the game, Avila attempted to throw Shin Shoo Choo out at second on a steal attempt, but threw the ball into center field, allowing Choo to make it to third base.  Choo was then able to score on a single by Asdrubal Cabrera.

While Avila cost the Tigers a couple runs on the defensive end, Boesch was busy costing runs with his bat and legs.  In the first inning, the Tigers had the bases loaded with only one out.  Boesch came up and swung at the first pitch, grounding into a 5-4-3 double play.  Now, I don’t expect him to get a big hit every time he is up with runners in scoring position, but I hope for a better approach.  Cleveland pitcher Corey Kluber was struggling, having walked Miguel Cabrera, hitting Prince Fielder, and giving up a run scoring single to Delmon Young after going to a three-ball count.  Boesch is an aggressive hitter that likes to swing at the first pitch, but this may have been a time for patience.  Kluber was struggling to throw strikes, and had Boesch been more patient, he may have had a better pitch to hit later in the at bat.  Instead, he swung at a pitch off the outside corner for a routine double play grounder to third.

The biggest blunder of the game, however, was Boesch’s baserunning error in the fourth inning.  The Tigers had runners on first and second with nobody out after Boesch hit a bloop single to center.  Jhonny Peralta then lifted a deep fly ball down the left field line.  Cleveland left fielder Ezequiel Carerra looked like he might run it down, but it hit off the wall, scoring Delmon Young.  Boesch only made it to second base, though, meaning Peralta, whose hit would have been an easy double with no one on base, had to stop at first.  Why didn’t Boesch make it to third, you ask?  He thought the ball might get caught, so he didn’t venture far off first, so when the ball hit off the wall, he could not have made it all the way to third.  He should have run all the way to second base while waiting to see if the ball would be caught.  Carerra never would have been able to double him off first from the left field corner with his momentum carrying him away from the field.  Had Boesch played this correctly, the Tigers would have had runners on second and third with nobody out.  Instead, it was first and second with nobody out and Avila grounded into a double play.  No more runs would be scored that inning or in the game.

It is always dicey to play the “what if” game because if one thing happened differently, many other things would change as well.  Would Avila still have hit a ground ball to second with runners on second and third?  Nobody will ever know.  But, if he had hit the same ground ball, it likely would have gone into center field, since Cleveland probably would have played the infield in.  That would have scored two more runs.  Even if the infield was back, the ground ball would have scored one run and moved Peralta from second to third with only one out, giving Infante the chance to score the runner from third.

One can certainly debate the merits of such an argument, but the point is this:  Had Brennan Boesch made the proper baserunning decision, the Tigers would very likely have scored one or two more runs that inning.  Boesch had a big weekend helping the Tigers sweep the White Sox, and I don’t want to ignore those contributions, but this one hurt big time.

The Tigers had all the momentum on their side coming into this game.  The Indians came to town having won just 6 out of their last 35 games.  If the Tigers play a clean game, they win.  Instead, they risk falling out of first again (as I type Chicago is beating Minnesota).  With three games coming at the Angels, and then a four gamer at Chicago, the Tigers can’t afford to throw away games like Monday’s.  The Wild Card continues to be less and less a possibility.  The Tigers must beat Chicago or they won’t make the playoffs.  With all due respect to Avila and Boesch, If the Tigers miss the playoffs by a game, I won’t forget this Labor Day debacle