Gritty Tigers hold off Nationals, snap 7-game skid
By Bill Ladson and Jason Beck
WASHINGTON -- A play at second base in the sixth and a relay at home plate two innings later proved to be the turning points Tuesday night as the Tigers edged the Nationals, 5-4, at Nationals Park to snap a seven-game losing streak. Washington has lost five of its last six games.
With the game tied at 3, the Tigers loaded the bases against Joe Ross before Andrew Romine hit a ground ball to second baseman Daniel Murphy, who threw to shortstop Danny Espinosa in an attempt to start an inning-ending double play. But Romine beat the throw to first, allowing Justin Upton to score the go-ahead run.
Murphy, however, claimed that a double play should have been called because Anthony Gose violated the slide rule at second base, as Gose appeared to not touch second base or make an attempt to. The play was reviewed, but ultimately confirmed.
"From my understanding, the rule is you need to make an attempt to touch the bag, which I think the replay showed that he did not," Murphy said. "I also think with the rule, you need to try to maintain the bag, which I don't think he did as well either."
Nationals manager Dusty Baker was also confused by the ruling.
"There was no double play," Baker said. "We were not aware that the rule has been changed. There has probably been a discussion since it's been invoked in Spring Training. We were told that the rule said [Gose] wasn't hindering [Espinosa] from throwing to first base."
The Tigers went on to score an insurance run on a pinch-hit RBI single from Miguel Cabrera.
"It was definitely a break," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of the call. "Instead of a tie game, we get the lead."
The Nationals had a chance to tie the score in the eighth inning. With a runner on first, one out and right-hander Alex Wilson on the mound, pinch-hitter Clint Robinson -- who hit a walk-off homer Monday night -- came through with a pinch-hit double in the gap. Wilson Ramos tried to score, but he was thrown out at the plate, thanks to a relay from center fielder Gose to shortstop Romine to catcher James McCann.
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Relay rescue: For the second straight night, Robinson hammered a clutch hit against the Tigers' bullpen. This time, however, Detroit prevented the run when Robinson's drive off Wilson stayed in the park. Though the pinch-hitter doubled to the center-field wall, Gose and Romine started the relay that ended the threat.
"I figured we got a good arm in center with Gosey, so I tried to stretch his arm out as far as I could to a distance where he could still get it to me in the air," Romine said. "And then [I could] put whatever I got left on it back to home."
Baker blamed himself for not using a pinch-runner for Ramos, a slow-footed catcher.
"I was hoping Ramos would get to second base, then I was going to run for him," Baker said. "But he never got to second base. He got past second base. ... Boy, that's tough to take. That was one heck of a relay. The ball was way out there. The Tigers had to make two perfect relay throws to the plate. You have to give them credit on making a perfect relay play."
Castellanos cleans up again: With no designated hitter in the lineup and Cabrera on the bench, Nick Castellanos batted cleanup for a second consecutive night and hit his second straight two-run homer to open the scoring for the Tigers, this one a no-doubt drive to left for his seventh dinger of the season. It was the first home run of the year allowed by Ross, who had held right-handed hitters to a 6-for-49 clip entering the night.
"He's been swinging a hot bat all year long," Victor Martinez said. "[Ross has] been tough against right-handers, but Nick's been, I think, the best hitter in the American League. I think it was a good matchup."
Not so good for Ross: Ross had arguably his worst start of the year, allowing five runs in six innings. He was cruising until the fourth, when he allowed the homer to Castellanos.
"Fastball command wasn't there," Ross said. "It was tough. I fell behind. When you need to pitch in a big spot, it wasn't really there."
Zim produces with bat: After leaving a combined 19 runners on base the previous two games, Ryan Zimmerman gave the Nationals a temporary 3-2 lead in the fifth inning by hitting a two-run homer. Zimmerman then made it a one-run game in the seventh when he homered off right-hander Drew VerHagen. It was the 15th multi-homer game of Zimmerman's career. However, with the potential winning run on base in the ninth inning, Zimmerman struck out before Murphy flied out to end the game.
"It's always good to get hits, drive in runs and help the team get close to winning the game," Zimmerman said. "It was a tough game. I wish we could have won it. We battled back. It's nice to go in the right direction." More >
"Take a deep breath, a sigh of relief. It's the same thing as when a guy's going through a slump. You get that knock and it's like, 'Oh, I can breathe again.' A pitcher who's had a couple rough outings gets a 1-2-3 inning and it's like, 'Thank God. That's what it feels like.' That's kind of the feeling in here. Now let's get back to work and find a way to keep putting W's up." -- McCann, who was 3-for-32 this season before his RBI single in the sixth
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Murphy has 17 multihit games, which leads the Major Leagues. Last year, he had 37 multihit games in 130 games.
It appeared that Bryce Harper hit into a double play in the third inning. But Baker asked for a replay review, and after 34 seconds, the call was overturned and Harper was ruled safe.
In the sixth inning, the Tigers had the bases loaded when Romine hit into a force play, scoring Upton. But Baker claimed that Gose had violated the slide rule. Baker asked for a replay review, but the play was confirmed and the Nationals lost their challenge.
"The way our luck has been going with replay recently, I had one finger crossed in my back pocket," Ausmus said. "The rule says it has to alter the play or have an effect on the play, and it didn't seem to have an effect on the turn of the double play."
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Jordan Zimmermann returns to Nationals Park, his home for the first seven seasons of his Major League career, on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET to face his old team for the first time since signing with Detroit as a free agent last fall.
Nationals: Right-hander Max Scherzer will face his former team and his former teammate on Wednesday. In his last start, Scherzer surrendered four home runs against the Cubs, increasing his total to nine homers allowed on the season. He has particularly struggled against left-handed batters, who are hitting .318 against him.