Tigers' costly rundown a case of bad angles

Tigers' costly rundown a case of bad angles

DETROIT -- Casey McGehee's eighth-inning ground ball looked like it had eyes the way it meandered through the Mets' infield. Unfortunately, the Tigers didn't have eyes at all the right angles to see it.

It was a potential go-ahead single that ended with a rundown to keep the game tied. But to those involved, it was a rare case of good luck gone bad, and a costly out in Sunday's 3-1 Tigers loss to the Mets.

"It's not on anybody," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's not [a play] that happens often."

Ironically, the eighth-inning rally that set up the hit began with a piece of aggressive baserunning. J.D. Martinez fought out of an 0-2 count against Addison Reed to hit a line drive into right field. From the moment Martinez saw the ball land, he sped up thinking extra bases.

Essentially, Martinez tested right fielder Curtis Granderson's arm, and ended up with a double.

"At that point, with two outs, that's the time you have to take your chances," Martinez said. "We have to get a guy in scoring position right away. That's what I was doing right there."

With first base open, Reed intentionally walked Justin Upton. McGehee hit a chopper that first baseman James Loney couldn't corral on the hop as he ranged to his right. Second baseman Neil Walker was in the right spot to back up Loney, but the deflection sent the ball just out of Walker's grasp as he tried to change direction, leaving Granderson to field a dribbler in short right field.

From the home-plate and first-base angles, it was a seeing-eye single. From across the infield, it was a tougher read, leading third-base coach Dave Clark to initially hold Martinez at third.

"It's tough, because [Martinez has] got his back to the play," Ausmus said. "It looks like it's going to be at least knocked down in the infield, so Clark is holding him up, and then it gets past the bare hand of the second baseman and it kind of trickles into the outfield. But at that point, J.D. has come to a full stop, so it's hard to restart again."

Clark tried to send Martinez once he saw the ball in right, but by the time Martinez noticed, he had stopped rounding third.

"I'm looking at Clarky, and I'm thinking score right off the bat," Martinez said. "And when I come up on Clarky, he kind of stops me, so I'm thinking the ball's still in the infield. And when I look up, the ball's in the outfield. So I'm like, 'What just happened?' And by that time, it was too late [to break for home]."

Upton, however, saw the ball the whole way and saw the wave home. He rounded second to either take the extra base or force a rundown to let Martinez score.

"Because the play was in front of me, I kind of kept my head up and was watching the play," he said. "Just the speed of the play in my head said that J.D. was going to score, so I kept moving, and by the time I realized he was still standing on third, it was too late."

With both Upton and Martinez stranded between bases, Granderson fielded the ball in right and ran it all the way to the mound before throwing home to start the rundown.

"When I look up, [Upton's] already on me," Martinez said. "We're pretty much screwed at that point."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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.