Crushed in Oakland

I wish I could say that this was easily the Tigers most devastating loss, but really that would require more time to sort through them. It’s easily in the top 2 in terms of crushing losses to the A’s this year though.

Inexplicably the Tigers blew a 7 run lead to the A’s, and missed a chance to gain ground on the 3 teams they are chasing. With the Indians, Mariners, and Yankees all losing, the Tigers had a chance to gain in both their wild card and divisional chances. Some might say that at least they didn’t lose ground, but the fact of the matter is they did. In the last month of the season everyday you’re not moving up, your moving down because that’s one less game you have a chance to win.

The emotional response is to say this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That the team can’t possibly compete after this and it’s all over. At least that was my initial reaction and I’m much more glass half full than many. I know many had already written the season off but I’m an optimist – plus I checked the standings and the Tigers still are in the hunt for a playoff spot.

A popular refrain after losses like this are complaints about a lack of heart or a lack of urgency. Comments on the demeanors of players and the managers and other critiques that really can’t be backed up one way or another. The postgame analysis is heavily influenced by the results instead of the actions. Case in point, when Justin Verlander is dominating and getting quickly back up on the rubber and not pausing between pitches, “he’s on a mission.” But when he does the exact same thing and struggles, he isn’t on a mission, then “he’s rushing it, he needs to slow it down.”

The same is true of this lack of heart argument. Was there a lack of heart before the first pitch was thrown and it was 0-0? How did the lead get to be 7 runs in the first place? Nate Robertson was pitching a perfect game and the Tigers had received some timely 2 out (i.e. clutch) hits.

As for the lack of urgency, how about Jim Leyland turning to his big 3 relievers for the last 3 innings despite having a 5 run lead. He wanted this game, and he managed it with a sense of urgency. He even brought in Pudge and interrupted what would have been 2 full days off because of the issues when Rabelo catches Jones.

The fact of the matter is that Rodney and Jones got lit up. I don’t think it has anything to do with heart, urgency, swagger, or any other nonsense. Rodney couldn’t find the strike zone for the first time in a month and he got hammered. Cameron Maybin lost a ball in the sun, much like Nick Swisher did a couple innings earlier only Swisher recovered in time. Todd Jones allowed just his 3rd homer of the season, and then proceeded to start playing whack-a-mole around the plate. (really poor timing for Jonesy on a day when he bashes talk show radio hosts – if it weren’t for Michigan losing this would be the only thing discussed by Greg Brady on Jamie and Brady Tuesday morning) What do any of these things have to do with heart? Two of the team’s most effective relievers and a 20 year old who’s been with the team for 3 weeks cost the team a game because they didn’t have heart? It just doesn’t make sense.

Blame this one on the bullpen. Blame it on Leyland’s lineup if you wish (which scored 7 runs incidentally). Blame it on a lack of heart if it makes you feel better. But sometimes crap happens. And it’s just happening an awful lot.