OAKLAND, CALIF. - It happened again.
For the second consecutive game, Francisco Rodriguez entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a one-run lead. For the second consecutive game, he blew the save and the Detroit Tigers lost.
This one came in short order, as well. Rajai Davis walked to lead-off the inning, Jed Lowrie doubled to left-centerfield and two batters later, Ryon Healy hit a walk-off home run. They lost, 7-6.
It was Rodriguez’s fourth blown save of the season in 11 opportunities and it negated a big home run from James McCann.
Manager Brad Ausmus has wanted to break McCann out of his slump.
So much so, that the Tigers manager has kept penning him into the lineup against right-handed pitchers, despite a batting average nearing .100.
In the top of the sixth inning this afternoon, when the Tigers needed it the most, McCann broke out of that slump. Against a righty. McCann’s two-run home run over the high wall in left-centerfield put the Tigers ahead late.
But Ausmus could not break Rodriguez out of his slump.
McCann’s home run was his sixth of the season. He has 10 total hits. But this blast, in a game the Tigers played from behind much of the way, was by far his biggest. It went for naught.
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The home run took lefty Daniel Norris off the hook for a second time and gave the Tigers bullpen another tall task, which they completed with 3 1/3 scoreless innings before the nine.
Norris once again threw too many pitches in too little a time. He couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning, equally erratic and effective, allowing five runs – four earned – on eight hits. He walked two and struck out four.
The Tigers scored an early run on a Nick Castellanos excuse-me, check-swing double inside the first base line in the top of the third inning, but the Athletics got to Norris for four runs in the next two innings.
They responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning on RBI doubles from Chad Pinder and Rajai Davis and scored twice in the fourth on Yonder Alonso’s third home run in two games. It was lefty-on-lefty and went out to right-centerfield.
The Tigers tied the game the next half inning, though, when Miguel Cabrera hit a hard RBI single, Victor Martinez beat the shift with an RBI single down the third base line and Cabrera scored on a wild pitch.
Norris’ fourth inning struggles could have spelled the end of his day, after a walk and Alonso’s home run, followed by back-to-back singles. He bore down, though, to retire the next three batters – two on strikeouts.
But with his effectiveness waning the next inning, Ausmus left him in a couple batters too late and he allowed the go-ahead run on a RBI single to Trevor Plouffe.
Norris' batterymate, McCann, had his back an inning later, though, and so, too did the Tigers bullpen. Shane Greene threw two scoreless innings of relief. Blaine Hardy retired the only batter he faced and Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth inning.
Then, it was time for Rodriguez to hop back on the horse. He did, but fell off again and the Tigers left town losers of two out of three.
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