Bad plays in baseball happen every day. But bad plays like this one absolutely do not happen every day.
On Tuesday night, the Detroit Tigers handed the Minnesota Twins a walk-off win in the ugliest and most spectacular way possible: a thoroughly botched play.
Let’s set the stage. It’s the bottom of the ninth at Target Field and the Tigers are up 4-3, but the Twins are threatening with runners on first and second and only one out. Miguel Sano, who was hitting .083 coming into Tuesday night’s game, is at the plate. He’s got two balls and two strikes. Then the magic happens: after Tigers pitcher Gregory Soto delivers his next pitch, every Detroit player forgets how to play baseball and all hell breaks loose.
Here’s the breakdown of that hilariously awful play in chronological order:
Sano hits a sharp single to right field.
Right fielder Robbie Grossman jogs over to catch the ball, which appears to clank off the top of his glove before rolling away. Grossman desperately chases after the ball, snares it, and throws it to second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
Schoop has the ball for barely a second before throwing it to catcher Eric Haase.
At this point, no Twins have scored, but the bases are full. As the ball is bouncing to Haase, Sano makes what would have been a grave mistake: He keeps running past first base, forcing the player at second base, Gio Urshela, to run for third.
As Urshela runs toward third, he realizes that Trevor Larnach, the occupant of third base, has been held there and isn’t advancing. So even though Urshela is almost at third base, he turns around and starts running back to second while Sano runs back toward first.
Haase starts running up the third base line to throw the ball to third baseman Jeimer Candelario and catch Urshela in a rundown. But Haase’s throw goes way over Candelario’s head.
The untouched ball sails onto the left field grass, where there’s no fielder within at least 50 feet. Schoop, who had been ready to catch Candelario’s throw at second, sprints toward the ball, but it’s too late. Larnach scores to tie the game, and then Urshela flops in with a belly slide to score the winning run. Tigers lose.
That play demonstrates how baseball can be amazing and horribly punishing at the same time. Sano thought he could make it to second only because Grossman couldn’t catch the he hit ball. And Urshela only made it home because he had to turn back after running almost all the way to third base, which drew Haase’s high and uncatchable throw, which allowed the ball to roll into an area where there were no fielders for miles, giving Urshela the time to score.
Bad plays, including that magnificent mess performed by the Tigers, are an integral part of the game. They’re one thread — one ugly, gross, malformed thread — in the glorious tapestry of baseball fans know and
love are required to deal with. They may inspire some fans to organize a medieval-style rotten vegetable pelting for the players, but they bring joy to so many others.