Ausmus plays matchups, runs out of arms

Tigers manager uses five relievers to follow strong start from Price

Ausmus plays matchups, runs out of arms

DETROIT -- For eight-plus innings, the Tigers got the deep start from David Price that they needed. For three innings, they got big outs from the bullpen. For the final 11 innings, they got blanked by Mariners pitching.

In the end, for the second time in three games and the third time in 10, they got the bullpen loss that they dreaded. And as they headed out of town with a four-game series split against the Mariners, they were equal parts tired and exasperated.

"When we get pitching, we don't score runs," manager Brad Ausmus said after Thursday's 3-2 loss at Comerica Park. "And when we score, we don't get pitching."

Ausmus played bullpen matchups more aggressively this series than he had for most of the season. It meant using middle relievers for shorter outings, but more frequently.

The result was a bullpen with several well-used arms for Thursday's series finale, but a starting pitcher who regularly works deep into games. Price posted his fourth consecutive start of at least seven innings, a godsend on a day when Blaine Hardy was a short-outing or last-resort option after pitching the previous three games, and Al Alburquerque wasn't available at all after pitching the last four days. Even Alex Wilson had pitched four of the previous five days.

Hardy had warmed up early, presumably in a one-batter scenario for a left-handed hitter. Once Price worked into the ninth, Hardy was an emergency option. Alburquerque never warmed.

Ausmus played matchups to an extent. He used closer Joakim Soria for three outs in the ninth after he threw 30 pitches Wednesday night. When two walks built a Mariners threat off Neftali Feliz, Bruce Rondon entered to retire Austin Jackson and Kyle Seager to end the 10th.

Ausmus tried stretch Rondon in the 11th, leaving him in to face left-handed hitting Robinson Cano. When Cano singled, Ausmus turned to Ian Krol to force a lefty-lefty matchup with Seth Smith, who struck out.

Krol stranded two runners by retiring left-handed Logan Morrison. Wilson was Ausmus' best option for the 12th, but he was also the only fully ready option left. Ausmus decided to stick with Krol for right-handed hitters Chris Taylor and Mike Zunino, who were both batting under .200. However, Taylor was 6-for-21 off left-handed pitchers entering the day.

"I'm running out of pitching," Ausmus said. "We've got two guys hitting under .200. we should be able to get them out. Simple as that."

Taylor singled, then Zunino hit a double inside the line that caromed off the left-field stands and sent Yoenis Cespedes scrambling to recover as Taylor scored.

The frustration from Ausmus was evident.

"I don't know if you think I have a bevy of arms down there all named Mariano Rivera," Ausmus said. "That's not how it works.

"Really, the bullpen did a nice job. We went 12 innings, we scored in the first. Their pitching did a better job. Our bullpen did a very nice job. We gave up one run."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.