DETROIT -- A rally squirrel, it was not. Or was it?
Considering everything else that has come up, it was bound to be a question for Tigers manager Brad Ausmus after Thursday's 8-6 walk-off win over the Royals at Comerica Park, where a black squirrel crossed the infield and invaded the dugout during a rally an inning earlier.
"Yeah, I think it was because of the rally squirrel," Ausmus said.
The downtown ballpark is better known for summer invasions from birds. They've been gone for most of the summer, but the squirrel took the opportunity to pay a visit as the Tigers had a rally going in the eighth inning. But like the squirrel, the lead proved elusive.
The squirrel emerged from somewhere behind home plate and scrambled into foul territory along the first-base line, prompting Tigers first-base coach Omar Vizquel to take a few steps toward it. What happened from there looked like a cartoon. The squirrel meandered near the mound and then across the infield as Royals defenders debated whether to give chase or let it wander off on its own.
"I didn't want any part," said pinch-runner Rajai Davis, standing on third base as the potential go-ahead run at the time. "But I didn't want to draw any attention to myself. There were three of us out there. I figured he'd go for one of us, and I didn't want it to be me."
The squirrel made its way to the dugout railing, where the Tigers tried to shoo it away. After a few steps back toward the field, however, it jumped in near the far end of the dugout.
While Anthony Gose battled Royals reliever Wade Davis to try to put the Tigers back in front, a handful of players in the dugout debated what to do about the squirrel, which was scurrying around near the back. Alex Avila, who had singled a few batters before Davis pinch-ran for him, grabbed a trash can, while others tried to corner it.
"I was in front of it," Avila said, "but I didn't think I was going to lure it in the can with my good charms."
Asked if anybody freaked out, Avila pointed to one of the new pitchers.
"[Matt] Boyd was running around like it was going to kill him," Avila said.
The dugout quieted for about a minute, the squirrel seemingly having disappeared, before it jumped back onto the field and bolted for left. There, it paused for a staredown with Ben Zobrist, who had a run-in with an opossum last summer in Oakland. Zobrist tried to ignore it until it crept into his potential path, at which point he chased it back to the warning track.
"I don't know how it got back on the field," Ian Kinsler said.
The left-handed-hitting Gose, not known for opposite-field power, struck out to end the inning, sparing any potential interference. And the Tigers and the Royals remained tied heading to the ninth.
Kinsler finally ended it with a walkoff two-run homer to left field, not far from where the squirrel was last spotted along the bullpen fence. When somebody pointed out that they're 1-0 when a squirrel runs on the field, Kinsler shook his head in disbelief at the question.
"Unbelievable," he said with a laugh.
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.