KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers' 9-2 win over the Royals on Saturday night was fairly well-assured by the time Phil Coke entered to pitch the ninth inning. The two runs on three hits he allowed only broke up the shutout bid, rather than forcing anything close to a save situation.
However, they continued Coke's struggles to finish off hitters.
"He got ahead of some hitters and then ... the one pitch that missed location, they took advantage of it," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Coke had 1-2 counts on the first three batters he faced. Nori Aoki slapped a ground-ball single to left, Omar Infante flew out to deep center, then Eric Hosmer turned on a breaking ball and doubled to the right-field corner.
From there, Billy Butler hit a first-pitch fastball for a sacrifice fly, then Danny Valencia lined a 2-0 breaking ball down into the right-field gap.
It was the third straight outing in which Coke has either given up runs or allowed inherited runners to score. He attacked the strike zone better, but didn't get the grounders from his breaking ball that eventually helped him settle down last Saturday at Minnesota.
Entering Sunday, Coke had given up eight runs on 13 hits over his last 7 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out four. His fastball has gained velocity, but his breaking ball continues to be tinkered.
"He's throwing 92-94. He's added this cutter-slider he gets some bad swings on," Ausmus said. "It always seems to be one pitch, but my gut says he's going to clear the hurdle. We're going to need him."
Miggy using deke to fool top-shelf outfielders
KANSAS CITY -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus struggles to put into words the move that Miguel Cabrera has now used twice to tag up and take an extra base on two strong-armed outfielders.
"That's an instinctual play by a veteran player," Ausmus said before Sunday's series finale against the Royals. "I think he went with the deke, like, 'I'm going to pretend I'm running, but I'm not running,' but then actually run."
As awkward as it sounds, it has worked twice. And it got into the head of Gold Glove Award winner Alex Gordon on Saturday, two weeks after Cabrera fooled defensive human highlight reel Mike Trout.
On Saturday, Cabrera's tag-up on Nick Castellanos' line drive to left was part-deke, part-read. The way the ball was hit, sending Gordon charging in to catch a sinking liner, did not suggest a chance for even a fast runner to go home.
A fast runner, however, would've likely had Gordon's undivided attention. With Cabrera on third, Gordon said his first look was to Victor Martinez at second base.
"I saw Victor off the bag at second, and I was going to try to double him up and get out of the inning right there," Gordon said. "I wanted to come up throwing, and at first, I didn't see anybody on second base so that's why I didn't throw."
Gordon held the ball, but just the look at the fake was enough for Cabrera to decide to turn his move towards home into a mad dash to the plate.
"My decision, it was because he faked the throw to second base and gave me a chance to react and try to score," Cabrera said.
It didn't look like a great chance, but the difficulty Gordon faced to get his body pointed back towards home plate was the difference.
"After that, it was just too late to get Cabrera," Gordon said. "I made a running throw, but it was off-balance. Just a good play by them."
It came two weeks after Cabrera tagged up from second base and advanced to third on Trout on a fly ball to medium-range center field. In that case, Cabrera's first few steps were more tentative, trying to sell a fake, before he took off. That put Cabrera in position to score on Austin Jackson's sacrifice fly four pitches later.
In both cases, Cabrera's baserunning led to the run. In both cases, they demonstrate the belief that Ausmus has preached since Spring Training, that players don't need good speed to be good baserunners.
Ausmus supports Kinsler's aggressive play
KANSAS CITY -- Ian Kinsler got a little ribbing about the two outs he made on the basepaths in Saturday night's 9-2 win over the Royals, according to Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. Kinsler is not, however, going to be getting a sign to slow it down.
"We poked a little fun at him after," Ausmus said.
It was a play on the borderline between baserunning aggressiveness and awareness. The former suggests forcing the defense to make a play after the relay throw floated in. The latter suggests not taking that kind of chance with two outs and Miguel Cabrera set to bat.
That said, the aggressiveness Kinsler has shown this season has been appreciated. After Kinsler came to Spring Training talking about getting back to the baserunning aspect of his game, going so far as to drop weight following his trade from Texas, he has shown it on the field.
"I think you knew he had the ability, the resume," Ausmus said. "What I didn't know was the personality and the intensity with which he focuses on his job. Gritty player."