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Tigers 5, White Sox 4: Robin Ventura hangs Shark out to dry

Despite warning signs, Jeff Samardzija is allowed to blow a 4-0 lead

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When Victor Martinez hit a bases-clearing double off Jeff Samardzija in the eighth inning to tie the game at 4, my first response: "Good."

Which is bad.

It wasn't directed at Samardzija, who pitched crisp, clean, no-caffeine baseball through seven innings before encountering trouble in the eighth inning. That sort of thing happens to pitchers.

Robin Ventura, on the other hand, deserved any consequence that stemmed from his inaction. And it's easier to talk about it when the White Sox don't get him off the hook.

Here's how it happened: Samardzija completed seven scoreless innings with just 86 pitches, and his slider was a big part of it. It had started to flatten out as he finished the seventh. He threw a hanger to Nick Castellanos on a 2-2 count, but Castellanos hit a routine grounder to short. Not a big deal in isolation, but something to file away as things like fatigue and the Times Through the Order Penalty (TTOP) come into play.

Starting the eighth, Samardzija got ahead of No. 8 hitter 1-2, but McCann saw a hanging splitter and lined it to left for a single. Jose Iglesias followed, and Samardzija got ahead 0-2. Eight pitches later, Iglesias walked. Samardzija couldn't get him to swing and miss, and the 10th and final pitch of the at-bat was the very definition of borderline.

At this point, all the warning signs were there.

  • Situation: Runners on first and second, nobody out.
  • Pitch count: Going to be 100 after his next pitch to Anthony Gose.
  • Time through the order: Fourth.
  • Stuff: Couldn't get the bottom of the Tiger lineup to swing and miss.

Ventura let him face Gose, who singled to center to load the bases with nobody out.

Ventura let him face Ian Kinsler. Samardzija clipped his elbow to score a run and keep the bases loaded.

Ventura let him face Miguel Cabrera (after a Don Cooper mound visit). Samardzija ... struck him out by getting him to swing through two fastballs and chase a high one? Weird.

Also, harmful, because Ventura let Samardzija face Victor Martinez, who crushed the first fastball he saw to right center to clear the bases and tie the game.

That's when Ventura finally came out to pull Samardzija. Zach Putnam retired the next two batters to increase the intensity of the microscope, and then Putnam gave up a walk-off homer to McCann in the ninth to make this the only thing we're going to talk about.

Which is a shame, because through 7½ innings, we could talk about a great Ventura decision: batting Jose Abreu second.

Abreu went 1-for-3 with a HBP in his MLB debut in the No. 2 spot, and he factored into both of the Sox' crooked numbers.

In the fourth, he doubled off of David Price and got an extra 90 feet courtesy of a Yoenis Cespedes error. Avisail Garcia cashed him in with a sac fly, and Melky Cabrera followed with a 450-foot bomb into the seats in left for a 2-0 lead.

Two innings later, Adam Eaton tripled to right, with the ball getting a favorable carom off the side wall. That gave Abreu an RBI opportunity, which Price denied by plunking him on the arm to put runners on the corners. Avisail Garcia bounced back from an ugly 0-2 hole to muscle a single to center. Melky Cabrera lined a single past Kinsler to load the bases, and Adam LaRoche hit a sac fly to make it 4-0.

Price finished the inning, and he thought his day was over. Brad Ausmus had a different idea, and he was surprised to see nobody on the mound as the Tigers warmed up to start the second. They couldn't find him fast enough to keep him in the game, and so Ausmus had to go to the bullpen earlier than he wanted.

Somehow, that qualified as the superior managing job today.

Record: 32-42 | Box score | Play-by-play | Highlights