Defense hurts Tigers as sweep of A's gets away

Defense hurts Tigers as sweep of A's gets away

Defense hurts Tigers as sweep of A's gets away
DETROIT -- They know the feeling, watching the White Sox on television after the Tigers' game has ended and wondering where they'll stand. Days like Thursday are when the Tigers' gap in the American League Central looms, perhaps larger than it actually is.

But then, when a Tigers loss in the afternoon precedes a White Sox game at night, it's not going to be a comfortable feeling.

"Obviously we need help," catcher Gerald Laird said after Thursday's 12-4 loss to the A's at Comerica Park. "Our game's over. We lost. But we need help. I'll be watching the game. ... This is an important time, because when you lose games, you're just getting narrower and narrower in your chances."

The Tigers sit two games back in the division race as they wait for the Twins to come to town for a three-game series this weekend.

If the Tigers can finish up the homestand next Thursday down one game, Laird said, they like their chances. That night, too, they'll be waiting to see what the White Sox do, since Detroit wraps up its home season that day with a matinee against K.C.

The fact that the rest of the Tigers' schedule features the Twins and Royals gives Detroit hope of making up ground, especially with the White Sox headed for a showdown with the Angels this weekend. Their struggles Thursday in another close contest that turned in the field after taking an early lead give them a reminder for concern heading into winnable games.

"We make errors like any other team," shortstop Jhonny Peralta said. "But the errors we make are when the game's right there. That's the problem."

That said, had they not won both of the first two games, they probably would've accepted winning two out of three from an A's team that hadn't lost a series to a non-division foe in a month.

"It's difficult to sweep a team that's been as hot as they have," manager Jim Leyland said.

In the final days of the regular season, though, it's not that easy to watch those games slip.

They had a lead Thursday with a chance to sweep before the A's rallied with help in the field. Omar Infante's errant attempt to turn a double play on his own and throw against his momentum was a self-inflicted wound, scoring Oakland's first run in the third inning.

It was a ground ball up the middle, giving Infante time to make a play. Though Peralta was closing in on second base and had time to take a flip, Infante backtracked to step on the bag before trying to throw to first while drifting away from the play.

The decision itself wasn't the error, Leyland and Peralta said. Once he made the out, though, Infante rushed the throw.

"He just didn't set his feet and make the throw. I think he could've done that," Leyland said. "That was kind of a fundamental play."

Said Peralta: "He had time to stop and throw. He threw in the air. It's hard to throw straight to the base like that."

The throw from rookie right fielder Avisail Garcia in the sixth inning wasn't classified as an error, but it was a play that the A's took advantage of and used for a key extra base after Yoenis Cespedes' one-out single put the tying run on base. Garcia gathered Brandon Moss' double in the right-field corner and tried to throw to a spot.

"I tried to do too much," Garcia said.

Once the ball rolled into the infield, instead of where Tigers infielders were positioned, Cespedes kept running for home. Moss took third base on the play as the go-ahead run off starter Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez intentionally walked Seth Smith, who homered off him an inning earlier, to face Josh Donaldson, but fell behind before Donaldson delivered a go-ahead RBI single to left.

The Tigers had a chance to hold it at that, and brought in left-hander Phil Coke to face catcher George Kottaras. The final turn that followed was a doozy, and it was nothing even AL Gold Glove Award candidate Austin Jackson anticipated.

"He makes every play," Laird said of Jackson. "It's hard for him to miss a play like that."

At first glance, Kottaras' line drive seemingly caught Jackson out of position, charging a ball he needed to backtrack to make a play. On replay, the curve in the ball's path became a little more evident.

"I was right there. It took a left turn on me," Jackson said. "It had kind of a knuckleball spin. It wasn't where I thought it was going to be, and it started drifting. ... I don't know if I've ever had a ball hit to me that's done anything like that."

Kottaras ended up with a two-run triple, and the A's ended up with a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Six more runs in the ninth off Octavio Dotel and Drew Smyly, the rookie lefty starter inserted into a bases-loaded situation, put the game away. By the end, the Tigers were glad it counted the same as one of their one-run losses.

They'll watch. Then they'll move on.

"We win or lose as a team. It's no one's fault," Laird said. "We just didn't have a very good game today, all around. That's the bottom line."

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